About 140 reading and support ed instructional teaching aides would be dismissed from Valley View School District 365U under a proposal announced at Monday's board meeting.
About 30 of these paraprofessionals would be recalled back to work, according to Sharon Hawks, executive director of human resources, resulting in about 110 employees losing their jobs. These dismissals would be effective for the 2013-2014 school year.
The district would then hire certified teachers to replace the aides, a move "overwhelmingly" recommended by Valley View principals, Superintendent James Mitchem said.
District documents show about a 2:1 ratio of teacher's aides dismissed to certified teachers hired.
Valley View officials said reading teachers, who must complete at least 24 hours of specific reading training, produced a better rate of student growth than reading paraprofessionals.
"The model that used teachers in lieu of aides had a significant impact on student outcomes," Mitchem said.
Cutting teacher aides "has nothing to do with cost-cutting or reducing," Hawks said. "It's what we feel is best for the students."
Reading (elementary schools only)
In the past, each elementary school was given the option to have two reading teachers and four reading paraprofessionals, or teacher's aides. Schools were also given the option of having another reading teacher in place of two reading paraprofessionals.
Now, the district wants to cut the 32 reading paraprofessional positions and add 16 reading teacher positions.
Reading teacher vs. reading paraprofessional
Paraprofessionals are considered "classified staff." Those who hold this position are required to have 60 hours of college credit in any subject and pass an exam.
Reading teachers must have 24 hours or more of reading instruction and must pass a reading-specific exam to become certified. They are better versed in research-based interventions, utilizing data and reading-specific strategies, according to district officials.
Reading teachers will be able to plan and run data meetings, serve as a development resource for the district and better communicate with parents, among other tasks.
The district will employ half the number of reading teachers as it had reading paraprofesionals because of both the teachers' training and salary. A teacher makes roughly twice what a paraprofessional makes, Hawks said.
Supported ed instructional paraprofessionals (district-wide)
Only elementary schools will be affected by the reading changes announced above. Paraprofessionals from all district levels could be dismissed under proposed changes to the supported ed instructional program.
As with reading, the district wants more certified teachers, not paraprofessionals, working with students. Students need more "direct instruction from specialized staff members trained in instructional strategies in order to close the achievement gap and to reach these rigorous standards," according to board documents.
In an initial proposal, the district would cut 82 classified employees and add 40 certified employees, according to board documents. These numbers are not final.
Certified teaching dismissals
At least nine certified teachers will also be dismissed from the district because there are more certified teachers than positions to fill for the 2013-2014 school year.
Who is dismissed is based on certification and performance evaluation ratings, followed by seniority.
School board, community reaction
School board member Jim Curran requested to see the data referred to above before the school board makes a decision.
Two women addressed the board about the changes. Both said they were considering sending their children to private school.
A representative from the American Federation of Teachers said having more bodies in a classroom is valuable to address the needs of all students.
She also warned that what appears on paper is not always what will be seen in practice. The reduction is something A.F.T. was "very concerned about...because it is displacing people. They're losing their livelihood."
The school board will vote on the proposed reduction in force at its next board meeting on March 25.