Just to give a couple of examples, one of our paras is a certified teacher with her master's degree. This is her fourth year in Brookline, and she currently takes home $412 each week. Another one of our paras has worked at Pierce for 15 years and maxed out her salary on the highest step, seven years ago. After contributing to her increasing retirement fund and paying for her family's health insurance, her take home pay is BARELY over $300 per week. This, after 15 years of dedicated service to our district.
The School Committee's latest proposal seeks to create two different classes of paraprofessionals - paying those that work with children in special programs more than the majority of paras who support teachers in classrooms throughout the district. While we can understand why this might seem like a good idea to those who have never spent significant time in our schools, as kindergarten teachers we can tell you firsthand that every one of our classroom paraprofessionals is not just a classroom support - they are special educators and professionals doing deeply important work for our students and the district. Most IEP's in our classrooms have "support from classroom para" written in, and our paras are consistently collecting data, differentiating instruction, providing one-on-one support and modifying activities to ensure that every child has access to our curriculum and can be successful. Without paraprofessionals, the district would not be able to meet the levels of support mandated for these students. Furthermore, in Kindergarten, every year our classrooms have students with undiagnosed disabilities. This means that our paras are actually supporting even more students with special needs than the district documents. In fact, we are consistently reminded that Special Ed pays half of our paras' small salaries.
The high turnover of paraprofessionals is a significant hardship for us as teachers, and for our students. At that release day meeting we also talked about the difference between having a paraprofessional work with us over several years versus having to train a new person every school year (or more often). Our ability to teach more deeply, more effectively, and to develop more thoughtful curriculum is directly affected by the amount of time we have worked together as a team. Our paraprofessionals work SO HARD, and our schools would not function without them.
Having consistent, well-trained paraprofessionals that are paid a living wage should be a priority for our district. Their value to our classrooms and students cannot be overemphasized, and we will continue to stand with our colleagues until they are given the fair contract that they deserve.
Amie Buchman (Pierce K)
Eowyn Daly-Griffin (Pierce K/1)
Ashley Haese (Runkle K)
Kristen Haynes (Runkle K)
Colleen Muldoon (Pierce K)
Tanya Paris (Runkle K)
Lauren Kelly Talanian (Pierce K)
Andrew Winston (Pierce K)