This evening I want to express my concerns that you seem to be on the same path with the paraeducators that you took twice in contract negotiations with the teachers. Again you are demonstrating little to no respect for the collective bargaining process, believing instead that your administrators can unilaterally decide what is best for employees. I had hoped that your experience with the teachers’ contract would change your practices. But your continued paternal reluctance to listen to and respond to the valid concerns and needs of your District’s paraeducators only demonstrate your dismissiveness toward the rank-and-file employees who directly serve the students of Burlington.
There are paraeducators here this evening who want to help you understand what it is they do everyday in the schools. To start them off, let me read to you the standard job descriptions listed in almost every one of the District’s paraeducator position postings:
“(W)ork with a child who has intensive special needs. Ability to work with a team of instructors and consultants to guide one’s work as well as the ability to work independently is critical. Responsibilities include communication facilitation, (including working knowledge of American Sign Language) carrying out programs designed by the teaching staff, managing behavior, teaching self regulation skills, and supporting and facilitating social engagement with peers. Physical responsibilities include lifting, carrying, personal care, and the ability to assess a situation and respond quickly…”
“To assist professionals in supplying individual instruction to ...students in classroom and small group environments. To facilitate and supplement the educational process under the direction of a professional staff member. Responsibilities include communication facilitation, carrying out programs designed by the teaching staff, managing behavior, teaching self-regulation skills and supporting and facilitating social engagement with peers. Physical responsibilities include lifting, carrying, personal care, and the ability to assess a situation and respond quickly.”
Think about it. These folks are dealing with some of the district’s most vulnerable and troubled students in the district. These employees should not be subject to such low wages that they cannot afford your proposed healthcare package. They should not be subject to such low wages that they need to work second or third jobs. And, as with some of our best teachers, some of our best paraeducators are leaving us because they can earn more and be treated better elsewhere.
We are the educators of Burlington, Vermont. We strive daily to build the schools that Burlington's kids deserve.