Reduction in Paraprofessionals

In regards to the Superintendent’s proposed budget for the 2015-2016 school year (http://www.windsorct.org/pages/Windsor_Public_Schools/District/Board_of_Education/BOE_Budget), I appreciate the extra time and care that was put into creating the document. I consider it to be more informative than the 2014-2015 proposed and adopted budget that we are currently operated within.

It must have taken more time for the Superintendent, Business Manager, and others involved in the process to make changes in how the budget is presented, while also providing a greater amount of information to the public.

Before we get into the more challenging areas of the budget – I am grateful for the opportunity to review the document. It has been a positive experience discussing the details with everyone who has been involved.

If you read the budget, or quickly review the Highlights that Melissa provided early in the week (https://windsorrights.wordpress.com/2015/02/16/2015-2016-proposed-budget-highlights/), you will quickly note that the greatest reduction is in this in the area of staff, or personnel. Twenty-four (24) Paraprofessional positions are being cut from the Superintendent’s proposed budget for the 2015-2016 school year, which is next year’s budget. This includes 12 Special Education Paraprofessional positions and 12 Kindergarten Paraprofessional positions.

As it has been explained to us during a BoE Finance Committee Meeting, the reduction of 12 Special Education (Special Ed.) Paraprofessionals (Paras) will be cost-effective because the current model of Special Ed. Paras is unsustainable. This creates unease The idea of losing 12 Special Ed. Paras is difficult to imagine, because those positions were made available for a reason. What has changed?

The remaining 12 Para positions are within the Kindergarten classrooms. The reduction in 12 Kindergarten Paras has been proposed to allow for two (2) Kindergarten teachers and two (2) “Reading Teacher/Leader” positions to be added to the district. See table included on the lower half of page 3 in the budget.

The Superintendent assured us that each of the Kindergarten classrooms could be managed by a single teacher because there will be a reduction in the number of students in each classroom. It is anticipated that there will be 15 students per classroom, as suggested by the National Education Association. I found this document, (http://www.nea.org/assets/docs/PB08_ClassSize08.pdf) that states, “NEA supports a class size of 15 students in the earliest grades of regular school programs”.

At this point, I would like to highlight how wonderful it was that so many Paraprofessionals came out to speak during the January 29, 2015 public form on the budget. To have such a large turnout was wonderful to experience. Your comments demonstrated a true commitment to supporting and guiding our students towards achieving success, whether that is academically, socially, and/or emotionally.

I found myself agreeing with statements made regarding the positive support that Paras provide in each of the Kindergarten classrooms, along with the influence of direct one to one support that Special Ed. Paras provide. The idea of losing any of these positions is challenging to consider, but losing 24 seems like a major shift in a district wide approach to of each seems like a big change. Personally, I find the 12 Kindergarten Paraprofessional positions to be the more impactful of the two.

There are multiple reasons why I believe that the reduction in Kindergarten Paras will potentially result in an additional barrier for student is because 4 and 5 year olds need as many trusted and supportive adults as possible. The more positive role models both within and outside of the home is a demonstrated protective factor. Check this article out for publication on protective factors (https://www.childwelfare.gov/pubPDFs/protective_factors.pdf)

It’s important to note that the language used in the document that I linked above includes things like at risk and abuse and neglect. Please consider looking over those words and continue reading with the frame of mind that we can establish community norms that are centered on supporting children simply by being the best educator, or other key adult, in students’ lives.

It is also important to recognize that Paras provide the support to the teacher to ensure that there is very little disruption in the instruction or general management of the classroom.  The volume of information that teachers are required to teach has grown, while teaching methods have changed quite a bit to incorporate greater use of technology.

There is also a greater emphasis on small group activities. With the wide range of skills and current abilities in each of the classrooms it would make sense to break up students for core knowledge areas.  Having a dedicated classroom Para to assist with the classroom is going to be important for the little ones.  It is widely accepted that kindergarteners need routine, structure, and predictability within the day is critical.

It all sounds like it could be solved by adding the Kindergarten teachers resulting in the classroom size dropping down to 15. However, it is important to note that the district is actively working on strengthening the public perception of our schools, and seeks to offer additional preschool opportunities that will encourage parents to send their kids to a public preschool option. This certainly contradicts the intention of smaller classroom sizes.

I would say that what I’m most worried about is ensuring that all of our 4 and 5 year olds have the opportunity to connect with the joy of learning through the trusted moments established within the classroom? The experiences that they have within the classroom during those formative years of early childhood development will set the tone for how they will perceive education for the rest of their life.

Advertisements

2 comments

  1. I appreciate your support of the paraprofessionals and you are so correct in all the statements you made about the roles we serve in the classroom. I still await the superintendent to spend a full day in a kindergarten classroom and see exactly what we do. Not just a couple of administrators breezing in and out and only catching a glimpse of how a kindergarten class operates. Dr Cooke is sadly mistaken if he thinks scores will rise and I believe scores will only decline. What about students that move into town and are added to the 15 maximum size? Will another kindergarten teacher be hired? As it stands now, classroom sizes are between 15-19. And I’d like to know what is the total budget cost for the non personnel besides the $200,000 plus athletic funding. How much of a stipend do teachers receive for serving on various committees that are held during regular classroom hours that a substitute teacher also needs to be hired to covet? How much are the 1:1 devices for high school students? Thank you again for adding your voice to what already is most concerning.

    Like

    1. Hi Jennie,

      Thank you so much for your comment on the Para blog post. I hear your concerns. The point that you make about the amount of time that teachers are expected to leave the classroom to participate in building or district-wide planning is definitely worth further consideration. I wonder if teachers find it to be disruptive or an inconvenience. I would consider participation in committee work to be something akin to professional development – is this not the case?

      In regards to how the removal of an assigned Para for each Kindergarten room might impact what is happening in a classroom, specifically Kindergarten, Here is an interesting article from the National Education Association:

      I was recently speaking with a teacher who is a Windsor parent that works outside of district and she was concerned about the idea of her little ones attending Kindergarten with only one primary adult in the classroom. She did mention that there are most likely going to be additional staff in the room given the high number of children who qualify for one-to-one support.

      I wonder if the idea is to utilize the Special Ed. Para. who may be in the classroom providing one to one support to a single child for whole classroom management? Seems like the child who is receiving special education support would potentially not receive the individualized support called for in their IEP if this was the anticipated solution to the potential gap created by removing Kindergarten Paras.

      Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s