I am Andrew Styles, a 5th Grade teacher at Edmunds Elementary and Vice-President of the Burlington Education Association which is made up of the dedicated education professionals that work each day with the children of Burlington.
You have heard much over the last couple of years about the important roles that Paraeducators fulfill in our district. These dedicated Paraeducators work with our most vulnerable students and are responsible for helping deliver individualized education to these students.
What we see, though, is that many of our Educational Support Professionals, are working two or three jobs to make ends meet. They are dedicated to the success of our students and our schools; however, the District has have been doing very little to attract and retain professionals for our students.
Our ESPs are often left out of district trainings and treated as an afterthought even though they are educators who are working directly with our students. I have experienced many valuable trainings where my colleagues should be in attendance but are unable to do so because their hours had been cut. This means that they are unable to engage in valuable collaboration with colleagues and engage in the sharing of best practices. In fact, the whole district meeting to kick off the new year did not include our ESPs even though it included most of the staff of the district.
We appreciate the generosity of Burlington’s taxpayers. We are concerned to see that spending on direct student services continues to decline. We see ESP positions that remain unfilled over the course of a year, stretching the dedicated ESPs we have. Students go without one-on-one services which are required for the implementation of IEPs. This is a tenuous position for our educators and especially our students.
We ask that you partner with us to ensure that we provide the working and learning conditions that will enable our schools to focus on shrinking the achievement gap. We can do this by settling a contract that will attract and retain the best educational support personnel -- who team with the teachers -- for our students.
We are the educators of Burlington, Vermont. We strive daily to build the schools that Burlington's kids deserve.