Kindergarten aides throughout Manteca Unified School District that were hired to spend 90 minutes every day assisting teachers with managing the classroom received a letter last week informing them that their jobs may be on the chopping block.
But on Tuesday night the Manteca Unified Board of Education, after an outpouring of community support for the aides and the work that they do assisting teachers, sent a clear message by failing to act on a recommendation by district administration.
After hearing from teachers, aides and union representatives the item on the consent calendar received neither a motion for action nor a second to confirm it effectively killed the proposal and generating a round of cheers from a room that mostly there to support the paraprofessionals.
While Manteca Unified Superintendent Jason Messer said that the possibility existed that if the action was taken – which could have saved the district anywhere from $186,000 to $400,000 depending on the metric being used – the aides could be reassigned elsewhere in the district or offered other employment opportunities, he noted that administration understood the will of the board and will take appropriate action to address the issue in the 45-day revise to the 2017/18 budget that was just approved by the board.
The aides, which are used in the classroom to assist with implementing the reading curriculum recently adopted by the district, cost the district $316,000 according to kindergarten teacher Andrew Anderson who used the numbers from the original proposal that was approved by the board. In a letter distributed to the school board in advance of Tuesday’s meeting, Anderson likened that expenditure to the same amount that the district spends on elementary after-school athletics, but for an academic purpose that builds a foundation for all future learning.
In the eyes of fellow kindergarten teacher and Manteca Educators Association President Ericka Meadows – who said she stood in solidarity with the members of the California School Employees Association – the aides assisted in developing the “most pivotal building block in a child’s education” and said that keeping the positions would be “one of the best investments that a board can make.”
According to the item listed on the agenda, the proposal was made “in response to the budget issues faced by our District and the uncertainty for particular programs and types of service.” Messer noted that while the board sent a clear message that they weren’t willing to part with the paraprofessional aides in kindergarten classrooms, staff will be bringing back additional suggestions including the elimination of 10 certificated positions that are not currently filled because of budgetary concerns.
The matter will be discussed further at the August 2017 board meeting when budget revisions are proposed and additional funding received in the last month that wasn’t part of the original budget is taken into consideration.
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email email@example.com or call 209.249.3544.