Dear Camas Classified Public School Employees,
I have seen your signs all over town. I get a lump in my throat each time I see them. Yes, classified work has value. Yes, classified workers care about our kids. You are not paid what you are worth, and I don’t buy the district’s argument that your pay is less than Evergreen or
You see, my nine-year old son with autism is what the district calls a High Needs student. The para-educators (we call them “paras”) who work with high needs children like him gain valuable on-the-job training from the teachers they are assigned to. I have seen a number of you with great skills and a knack for getting our children to learn. I have seen class rooms where the paras and the teacher get into a great groove together.
Yet, each spring there is this mystical “bidding” meeting to determine the next year assignments for classified employees. From what I understand, this process is based solely on seniority. At this meeting, para-professionals choose their assignments for the following year. The position they are now in may or may not still be open for next year when their turn comes.
So, let us say that “Miss Betty” works great with Teacher Smith in the high needs elementary school class room. Teacher Smith has provided her with specialized training regarding communication tools, positive behavior strategies, learning techniques and so on. The two of them mesh and make each other more effective at teaching children and managing the class room. This makes for a smooth running class room where students learn and parents are happy. What’s not to love??
Yet, under current rules, “Miss Betty” will not be able to work with Teacher Smith the next year if she is “out bid” by another para-professional with more years of seniority, even if that para has worked for ten years as a play ground monitor but has never stepped foot in a special education class room (let alone one for high needs children.)
And this benefits who? Union members, I just don’t understand. The district has recognized this problem and is proposing a change to this system, which I will present here in their own words:
The second proposed seniority modification relates to Class III High Needs Para-educators and Class III Professional-Technical positions. These positions are usually highly specialized or student specific. Many of the positions involve high needs students. As such, they require particular training and/or skills. The district is proposing that these positions be awarded initially by the interview/qualifications process. However, once a person is assigned one of these specialized positions, he or she would have seniority rights for a similar position in the future. For example, if a high-needs para position with more hours opened, and a current paraprofessional in a similar position was interested, the open job would be awarded based on seniority.
Yes, I am union sympathizer and no, I of course do not want a strike. But I am also a parent of a special needs child and do not want union rules to directly interfere with the quality of my child’s education – which I have seen happen.
I am also a woman who supports the professionalization of women employees– and let’s be honest; almost all of the special ed paras in Camas are women. I honestly can’t understand why some of you would oppose a modification that recognizes and respects your special education skills and expertise? Maybe your union fears that this would open the door to a further crumbling of seniority rules?
Good luck to all of you in your contract negotiations. You can never be paid what you are really worth, but please consider accepting the school district’s proposed seniority modification regarding high needs para-educators.
A Special Ed Mom