Bye, bye, First Grade Parapros

Clarke County board axes all teaching assistants from first grade classrooms and media centers in Athens, Ga..'s public schools.

They did everything from tying shoes to escorting a child to the bathroom to helping a child read to hqnding out books. Sometimes small, sometimes large, these daily duties kept the classrooms running smoothly and helped the teachers do their jobs.

Parents and teachers may believe paraprofessionals are essential for having a well-run first grade classrooms, but the Clarke County Board of Education apparently does not, according to a story in the Athens Banner Herald.

The board voted to eliminate the jobs of who worked in first grade classrooms across the county, resultings in a savings of $736,000. A similar measure was proposed a few years but it didn't pass.

The school board adopted a budget of $118 million at its Thursday meeting.

Donnatella June 17, 2012 at 12:23 PM
It's awful that the parapros are loading their jobs. Having to deal with the issue I think that getting the community involved is an absolute. When my daughter was in school there was 1 parapro per grade level. And we the parents filled in some of the gaps. I was a single parent with out family support in the area and I found at least an hour a week to be in the class room. Has anyone looked into bringing Teach For America to Athens?
Rebecca McCarthy (Editor) June 17, 2012 at 12:28 PM
I don't know, but i will ask, Donnatella. I can't imagine how a first grade teacher can handle a class all by herself or himself. The maturity level and the academic level of the children varies so much. I'm going to have to be like you, and volunteer, because I have twins who will be in first grade this year. Their kindergarten experience was so awesome, partially because there were so many adults in the class helping out so the teachers could do their jobs. The State Department of Education is ruining the public education system, in my opinion, but consistently cutting funding.
Rita Smith Raines June 17, 2012 at 05:58 PM
I have lost my job as well. There is some misunderstandings about who is actually losing their jobs. The position of first grade and media center para's are being cut. Not necessarily the people in them. The CCSD believed it best to use seniority to decide whom to RIF (Reduction in Force). This seems logical in theory however, what has happened is pretty confusing. For instance, neither 1st grade para at Chase lost their job. They are moving down to kindergarten. There are 2 kindergarten para's and myself that are actually the ones being cut at Chase. My position is being filled by someone that has not worked at Chase and may or may not have any experience working with a special ed population. I am sure this is happening all over the county.
Rita Smith Raines June 17, 2012 at 05:58 PM
I have a few issues with this process. Number one- There were 3 votes not cast in the voting process. Two board members were out of town on business and one board member was voted in that night but for whatever reason did not cast a vote concerning the budget. This leads me to believe that about 1/3 of the board did not vote. So is the vote actually valid? Number two- I applied for a job opening 4 years ago. If someone within the school system that had seniority had wanted the job that I got then they should have applied for it at that time. Number three- I think at the very least, the yearly evaluations should have been considered as part of the RIF process. Just because someone has more seniority than me does not mean that they do a better job than I do. Number four- I was told that some special ed para's are not being considered for the RIF process due to training that they have had. When the teacher that I worked with asked which trainings these were she got a very vague email about it. I have 100 plus hours of college credit and at least 6 different training's provided to me by the school system that are applicable to my job. I just don't think everyone was looked at in the same light. So the whole process seems off to me.
Rita Smith Raines June 17, 2012 at 05:59 PM
Combined with the cut in unemployment insurance coverage from 99 weeks down to only about 25 this makes losing even a low paying job a nerve wracking experience. So the employees that are being RIFed will be able to file for unemployment in September and receive it through about the middle of February. Also, I may have to quit my second job because I make more than 50 dollars a week at it. Unemployment insurance has a policy of not allowing more than 50 a week to be made and not get a cut to the unemployment check that I get. Anything over 50 dollars will be cut dollar for dollar off of my unemployment check from the job I was laid off from! Additionally, if I make more than 50 dollars two weeks in a row I lose the unemployment benefit! I realize these rules are in place to keep people from drawing a check while working somewhere else. But I am already working somewhere else. I have had 2 jobs for close to 8 years.
Rebecca McCarthy (Editor) June 17, 2012 at 10:45 PM
Your issues and situation are so complicated, Rita. I'm sorry you have lost your position and how you can appeal to the right person and get back to working with children in the school district.
Jeannick June 18, 2012 at 02:16 PM
The education system terrifies me. I believe the people who make the decisions have never stepped foot in a classroom. Our children(along with teachers) are the ones who suffer. I have worked in schools/counties where jobs were cut but a budget was given to decorate the front office. Seriously??? How does this happen?
Athens Mama June 18, 2012 at 03:22 PM
For property owners, children, and those who care about their children, this is a crying shame. This move signals the beginning of VERY DEEP problems for the Clarke County School District. There are insidious problems already contributing to the decay of our local public school system, and this is a new gash in the body of CCSD. With multi-million dollar cuts predicted for next year, things are going to get much, much worse if our community does not do something quickly. Class sizes increasing, students with Special Education needs not getting adequately served, students with regular Education needs not learning the basic skills because they are slower learners or because of distractions in the classrooms, teachers with less patience because they are more stressed. For all who have time, VOLUNTEER! To School Board members - the budget should be more closely scrutinized. The unaminous feedback from the community at the recent budget hearings was - "DO NOT CUT THE PARAPROS. Cut secretaries at the Board Office, but do not cut those who have direct interactions with the students." Still, the Board voted with community money, against the community's response. Perhaps the Superintendent has some deal worked out with UGA or intends to place student teachers in these first grade classrooms? Wish there was more communication from the district on this issue...
Athens Mama June 18, 2012 at 03:26 PM
It was my understanding that all the furniture was replaced at the Board Office in the last 2 years. Not sure if I am misinformed, but I am sure that there have been other bundles of money flushed down the toilet as jobs are cut. Apparently, there is Title One money that must be spent in specific ways, and that Title One money funds some of the jobs at the Board Office. The community needs to more closely scrutinize the specific jobs and the sources of money. I wish the Superintendent would break this down for us on a spreadsheet. Surely he has one handy? I'm not being snide; really believe that he has one that he could easily share.


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