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Flagler School District’s Paraprofessionals, Key to Special Education, Protest Impending Job Cuts

| May 22, 2013

Indispensable, until they're dispensable.

Indispensable, until they’re dispensable.

Uncertainty about the future drove paraprofessional teachers fearful of losing their jobs to make emotional pleas Tuesday evening for alternative budget cuts by a financially challenged Flagler County School Board. But the “paras,” as they are known in the district, got no satisfaction: the School Board is not reversing its decision to plan for a lay off six of the paraprofessionals.

Adding insult to the potential injury of losing a job, the paraprofessionals expressed disappointment about a newspaper article speculating that disabled students might be better off without so many paraprofessionals whose attentions might foster a learned dependency.

Roberta Biannucci, a first-year paraprofessional in Flagler Schools, talked about her experiences, including three students who needed to be “toileted at the same time, because they don’t wait.” Those students need people to help them, she said. “We’re talking about people,” Biannucci said. “We’re not talking about books.”

“I am one of those people who get called in from a classroom to lift children up,” Beverly Miles said.

She talked about helping children go to the bathroom, changing a student’s pants so he wouldn’t have to go home with soiled pants, feeding lunch to a student incapable of otherwise eating and providing assistance needed to help another get out of a van. She said the paraprofessionals provide stability in the classroom for special needs students and the teacher.

“Don’t we care enough about our children to do something and to stand up and find a way to make this work?” Miles said. “We’ve been here for y’all. Y’all need to be here for us.”

Dire budget projections for next year prompted proposed budget cuts for Flagler schools. Even after planning to take $1.7 million from reserves, the district faces a potential $1.8 million shortfall. The situation will be even worse if a proposed additional tax of 50 cents per $1,000 of taxable value fails to win voter approval in June. The additional tax would add $50 a year to the tax bill of a person with taxable property of $125,000, minus a $25,000 homestead exemption.

Proposed cuts to close the $1.8 million gap included eliminating six paraprofessionals, which would save just over $100,000. Other cuts include eliminating Everest alternative school, at a saving of more than $500,000, and the elimination or downsizing of several programs. Another 20 paraprofessionals would not qualify for continued employment under a state funding formula. They’re not being cut next year. But they may be phased out in future years, if the district’s population remains stagnant, and especially if it declines, as it did in the current year (the district lost roughly 280 students of its 12,500-odd school population).

If the tax referendum does pass, the six paraprofessionals are likely to be recalled.

 

Speakers at Tuesday’s meeting also criticized plans to cut two adult education teachers (the adult education program is eliminating its culinary offerings in a cost-saving measure).

“Paraprofessional is an essential asset to the classroom,” said one seven-year veteran paraprofessional. “I’m worried during the summer that I’m not going to have a job. I don’t think that’s fair. I don’t feel appreciated.”

Marianne Manley, a retired teacher who continues as a substitute teacher and paraprofessional, said she was upset at the article, whose origin was unspecified, asserting a possible learned dependency. “I see a lot that goes on,” she said. “The people that walk in those shoes, they know what goes on.” She urged the School Board to “look for a way to keep these much-needed people.”

“I’ve worked with ESE children for 18 years and I’ve never been insulted so much,” Theresa Baker said. “I know some of my students are working at Publix because we push them to be something.”

Val Stinson, a teacher from Flagler Beach, was emotional as she spoke. Her daughter attends Oklahoma State University located near tornado-ravaged Moore, Oklahoma. “When we talk about money and cuts, to think we would take the lives of people over things,” she said. “It is something that is incomprehensible.”


School Board member Colleen Conklin said most of the speakers seemed to be veteran paraprofessionals who would likely survive the budget cuts because the most recent hires would be the first to go. Conklin suggested better communication with employees. Board Member Sue Dickinson fought over two previous budget meetings on behalf of the paraprofessionals, at times emotionally so, but she was outvoted.

Superintendent of Schools Janet Valentine said assistance would be available to all students in need, despite any cuts in staff.

“I don’t want any parent out there to be concerned” that if their child needs assistance, they won’t get assistance. Valentine said some people might have to be shifted around to meet all student needs.

Andy Dance, School Board chairman, thanked the speakers for presenting “some very heartfelt emotion.” This is the earliest the School Board has had to put together a proposed budget for next year, but there’s still time for some alternative, he said, because the fiscal year doesn’t begin until July 1.

“Everyone who works with us in the District should feel appreciated,” Dance said.

Plans to cut two adult education teachers also were criticized.

Barely able to speak above a whisper because of a sore throat, one woman said adult education teachers pay for themselves because of the class fees charged to students, but Valentine said the fees aren’t enough. “When we take a look at the revenues, it simply isn’t enough to support a full-time person with benefits,” Valentine said.

The explanation failed to satisfy Ranells Bauman, a school volunteer who attends adult education classes. “The classes I attend in continuing education are always full,” she said. Bauman said her teacher “is great.” She suggested scheduling more of the most popular classes.

“Most of the voters in Flagler County are seniors,” Bauman said. “You’re asking us to support the millage, which most of us would do, but you’re not doing anything for us. The continuing education classes are for us.”

 

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22 Responses for “Flagler School District’s Paraprofessionals, Key to Special Education, Protest Impending Job Cuts”

  1. Pat says:

    “Marianne Manley, a retired teacher who continues as a substitute teacher and paraprofessional.” This is one of the money problems of this district – DOUBLE DIPPING. How many others employed by this school district are doing the same? Give these jobs to folks who are not retired and collecting additional income. We have too many unemployed folks who are nowhere near retirement and need jobs so that they can save up for retirement.

    In addition, why eliminate 5 essential jobs at a cost of $100,000 when one NON essential job can be eliminated for pretty much the same amount, or higher,,or lower – superintendent, principal at Everest (why can’t the FPC principal be over this school too. It’s in the same compound, not to mention the previous principal for Everest is now an asst. principal at FPC…hello), asst. principals, and other unnecessary top heavy positions. Also, the 5 school board members collecting a welfare (doing squat) check for $33.000 each per year are more important than 5 paras in a classroom all year. Where is the logic in the decision making? And where is the union that is supposed to be representing these paras? Keeping quiet at the behest of the school board members it helped got elected?

    Vote NO and hire people who know how to run a school system and manage a budget!!!!

    • Get your facts straight says:

      Mrs. M as we call her is a retired teacher from another state. She is a substitute that fills in in difficult classes that we otherwise would not be able to get a sub. She loves the kids and substitutes because we need her. Others choose not to sub in these classes. She is an asset, and we could not run our special need classes when teachers have to be out without her. I never post on these silly comments by people who know nothing about what is really going on, but Mrs. M means too much to so many of us to let this one go. I am thankful when I see her substitute teaching with our kids with significant disabilities, because I know on that day they are still having there needs cared for by someone who loves them. Plus Mrs.M’s generosity makes Christmas brighter for many ESE kiddos. We love Mrs. M!

    • Emily says:

      I have had Ms. Manelyas a substitute teacher and I’d had subs with little or no experience and I want the sub with experience. The lesson plans and assignments I left got done when Ms. Manley was in my class, the class was left clean and orderly, and she writes a summary of how the day went so I could pick up where I left off. I am glad experienced subs are available and one way or another somoene is going to get paid for the job.

  2. Gia says:

    NO MORE TAXES. STOP MILKING THE TAXPAYERS with the same romance. YOU ARE WASTING MONEY.

  3. An Educated Citizen and Teacher says:

    “Superintendent of Schools Janet Valentine said assistance would be available to all students in need, despite any cuts in staff.”

    This is a lofty statement that holds no truth. How EXACTLY will the needs of these students be met when there are less people to help them? Paras are an INTEGRAL part of some of our classrooms and their cuts will lead to a ripple effect.

    I, for one, am disgusted that this is where our School Board, Superintendent, and ESE Director have begun to make cuts. There are SO many other options. To start making cuts at the BOTTOM of the pay scale in insane. How about we reduce the salaries of the five school board members and the Superintendent by $18,000 per year? That way, we keep the paras….HUMAN BEINGS keep their jobs, students receive necessary services, and families are not devastated. Seems simple enough to me. Why is NOBODY bringing up the salaries of these six people at any of the meetings???? Why is nobody questioning appointing an Assistant Superintendent in the same year that lay offs are being made?????

    I will vote YES on June 7th. However, pass or not, the questions that I pose are valid and should be addressed.

    If it does not pass, have they even considered the cost savings of a four day week? How about closing schools and GSB for the month of July?

    • Emily says:

      I agree, if para’s are cut the students will be the ones to suffer, students with special needs and students without. Without a para some teachers will need to stop class and tend to a need. This means losing instructional time, teacher not being able to monitor the rest of the class and increases the risk of possible student injury when teacher is attending to one student. It also increases the risk of lawsuits.

  4. Brad W says:

    I personally feel these positions are beneficial and should not be used in a political selling game because some board members made huge financial mistakes and are gambling with school funds.

    Interestingly enough I left one of these “presentations” (or sales pitch is the better way to put it) fuming. A teacher giving the presentation explained how she would not be willing to give 1 more hour a day of instructional time to get the 45 minutes without the cost of $2 million. The reason being is it wouldn’t leave her “enough time”. I did the math with her and her working 40 hours when she corrected me that she is only required to work 36.5 hours per week so that one more hour she “wouldn’t be getting paid for”?! I asked if she was hourly and she said no that she is salary. My response was then you work 40 hours and more when needed as we all do.

    Our schools can achieve the goals they want to without it being a further burden and sacrifice for homeowners. We already give enough. Our schools and teacher can be more reasonable to help save, reduce waste, and allow us to keep positions like paraprofessionals.

    • Emily says:

      I don’t know where that teacher works. The team of teachers at my grade level arrive early, leave late, take work home, gather materials or create them at home, and plan lessons on weekends. Even though entitled we rarely take the 30 minute duty free lunch and 45 minute planning is often slated for parent conferences, IEP meetings, or other duties A 36,5 hour week! I wish.

  5. Pete says:

    Put the blame where it belongs and hold accountable the School Board and the Superintendents Office for squandering taxpayer money. This problem did not happen overnight. Whether this vote passes or fails, you can bet their are going to be political consequences for some by the voters. Vote No!

  6. kmedley says:

    The paraprofessionals need to hold the responsible party accountable and that is the School Board, not the taxpayers. Flagler County taxpayers have been more than generous and all they ask is there be some accountability.

    The School Board has danced on our dime and it is now time to pay the fiddler.

    Vote No!

  7. Bob Z. says:

    The referendum will pass without a doubt; however, I hope that the Board, etc. try their hardest to not make this a yearly affair and take a long, hard look at cost savings, such as in the administrative areas.

  8. Rain says:

    We don’t have money for these much needed positions but we have money to buy the old hospital and keep up the maintenance, $10,000.00 per month, on the old, vacant since 2007, Courthouse. Doesn’t make much sense, does it.

  9. Anon says:

    It is very easy to jump on the people who are the lowest rungs of the socio economic ladder.
    Politicians do it all of the time.

    How many assistant principals are there at the Flagler Palm Coast high school, six?
    It would be more equitable to let one of them go and their $70,000 salary plus benefits and then let one of the para professionals go.
    Or let two assistant principals go and keep all of the para professionals.

    It is unlikely that those at the upper levels get the ax. They have a number of guardian angels within the system.

    As Paul Harvey would say “Now you know the rest of the story.”

    • Falcon1 says:

      If the school board members cut their salaries in half the paras would have their jobs! i wonder how much Mr. Dance and the rest of the board members make in their private jobs? Does the Supt. really need an expense account of over $1,000 a month? Why can’t she take a cut since she now has an assistant superintendent?

      The upper levels maintain their job security, including the school board!

      It is the duty of the citizens to ask these questions. The teachers are too afraid to ask questions.

  10. tulip says:

    @D–I think when people bring up the old hospital and other county expenses in the same thread as the school board tax increase, it means that not only will we be paying more in school taxes but more in other taxes as well, due to the county spending more. Put all those things together and it makes for a larger bite out of our money.

    The school budget and county budget may be different entities, but the money comes from one place—our wallets.

  11. Anonymous says:

    “School Board member Colleen Conklin said most of the speakers seemed to be veteran paraprofessionals who would likely survive the budget cuts because the most recent hires would be the first to go.” Does this mean that the veteran paras shouldn’t care about their coworkers or the students who will be affected? Please vote this board out, not the funds fo the schools.

  12. Tax payers says:

    We voted them in, now lets vote them OUT!

  13. Salaries says:

    I thought school board members were volunteered positions???

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