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home : most recent : statewide implications January 17, 2019

1/7/2019 12:10:00 PM
School support staff: Which would you cut?

Rebecca R. Bibbs, Herald Bulletin

Taxpayers may grouse about how much money is spent outside the classroom, but that may be part of an incomplete understanding of what it actually takes to educate a child. So if any of these positions are cut, who would perform those necessary functions?

• Administrative assistants: These people take the phone calls from parents, vendors and the supporters of schools, leaving the educators free to administer or teach.

• Administrators: Charged with keeping up with the latest trends in education, maintaining district budgets and hiring staff, these can include people at a district level and principals at a building level. 

• Behavioral specialists: Some children come to school with congenital issues or adverse childhood experiences that make them difficult to manage, leading to disruptions of education for themselves and their classmates. These specialists can intervene and implement strategies to help.

• Bilingual specialists: Not everyone entering American schools knows English, so districts must hire staff who can help newcomers navigate their new world.

• Bus drivers: Once upon a time, students tended to walk to neighborhood schools. But as urban schools served students from more distant areas and rural schools collected them from the countryside, the need for transportation developed.

• Equity specialists: Though they remain rare, some urban districts, like Anderson Community Schools, hire multicultural specialists to help teachers understand students from various backgrounds and to identify and acquire resources that will help children from non-white or non-American backgrounds excel.

• Food service: There was a time students went home for lunch. But it became increasingly clear to educators that many students don’t have food at home. At the same time, they recognized the relationship between having a full belly and the ability to learn.

• Guidance counselors: The goal in modern schools is to prepare students for their lives after graduation. That means determining what a student’s talents and interests are and guiding them towards the post-secondary options that are the best fit.

• IT: Three or four decades ago, there was no such person. But in an age in which schools are going 1:1, or One to One, someone knowledgeable about technology has to be around to evaluate what is coming down the pike and to make repairs to delicate equipment — or, in the case of an increasing number of schools, educate the students to do it.

• Librarians: Though libraries are housing fewer physical books because of technology, there is ever more information available to students. Someone has to organize it, evaluate it and distribute it.

• Maintenance: Someone needs to keep clean and repair the buildings and grounds around schools. Buildings get dirty. They also sometimes experience breakdowns. It’s often more cost-effective for districts to have staff than it is to call in a handyman or crew on an as-needed basis. 

• Nurses: Someone has to give students their medications and determine whether little Johnny really has a fever and needs to go home. This also is the person usually charged with maintaining vaccination records.

• Resource officers: With a contemporary emphasis on security, especially with the perception of an increase in mass shootings, many districts are working with their local police departments, sometimes splitting the cost.

• Social workers: The needs many students experience outside of school, such as poverty, family dynamics and abuse, often affect their performance in school. Social workers can help families get on track.

• Speech pathologists: Younger children especially sometimes enter school with issues, some of them relatively common, that prevent them from understanding what a teacher says or being able to decode phonetics when learning to read.

• Teachers’ aides: Teachers consider these assistants indispensible when it comes to allowing for one-on-one instruction with struggling students.

Related Stories:
• Lawmakers, organizations press school districts to save money by cutting support staff
• Paraeducator positions grow in Indiana schools, but their wages don't

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