26 paraprofessionals out of work - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

26 paraprofessionals out of work

April 22, 2003

SYLVESTER - Pam Hill spends her entire day in the classroom teaching children, but she's not officially a teacher, she's a para-professional.

"It's less than $10 thousand you make in salary, you do it for benefits or because you love to be around children," Worth Primary Principal Don Turner said. "We have some super folks out here."

But at the end of the year nearly all the school's paraprofessionals will be gone from first through fifth grade classrooms, all in an effort to cut costs. Add up transportation, supplies, and teacher and administrator salaries and Worth County spends $26 million educating  children. This year $19 million of that came from the state, next year that figures to be much less.

"The state has really put a heavy burden on local boards of education either forcing us to raise taxes or make substantial cuts," Superintendent Donald Slate said.

Shaving $820,000 off the budget, Worth County schools will have 40 fewer employees next year. Some are central office staff, some are coaches, but 26 are people heavily involved in the classroom.

"I want you to read silently and I'm going to come around and listen you to read," Hill tells the students.

In tough economic times, the school system says they get little state funding for paraprofessionals, so they are the first to go, but Hill feels differently, "I feel like we are needed here." 

With them goes Worth Primary's reading recovery program as well. But those left behind aren't losing hope.

"We're going to deliver same level of instruction, it will be more difficult, require us to be more innovative," Principal Turner said.

School districts might need to raise property taxes too, if budget cuts are worse than expected.  Worth County hopes to hire back some of the paraprofessionals as substitute teachers.

posted at 5:02 p.m. by dave.d'marko@walb.com