CBRSD undermines its paraprofessionals
To the editor:
I found the recent article regarding contract negotiations between the paraprofessionals and the Central Berkshire Regional School District dispiriting and disturbing.
The district's paraprofessionals are charged with carrying out various necessary and demanding duties which are invaluable towards providing quality education in our schools. As a retired special needs teacher who served in the district for some 25 years, I am grateful to those paraprofessionals who serve as unsung heroes for our schools' most needy population.
A paraprofessional's responsibilities run the gamut from providing one-to-one and group academic assistance, to directing and reinforcing appropriate student behavior, to assisting students with toileting tasks. Paraprofessionals must establish a positive relationship with their students, many whom they may oversee throughout the entire school day. Quite often, a paraprofessional will assist the same students over a number of years.
They are engaged as hourly employees, whose mean salary, after many years of service and consequent hours of professional in-service training and development, doesn't approximate the current definition of a living wage. Finally, consider that a good number of our paraprofessionals are residents within our seven-town district. They are part of our community's social fabric.
As the assistant superintendent last year, Supt. Casna oversaw the loss of 37 paraprofessional positions. Rather than acknowledge the worth and value of this diminished workforce, the superintendent is intent upon "prioritizing" the elimination of seniority as part of current contract negotiations. Permitting bias as part of the evaluation and budgetary process in gauging paraprofessional performance and retention would create an atmosphere of distrust and anxiety within our entire school community.
Seniority has proven to be an effective, unbiased, and balanced working guideline in retaining a qualified and dedicated paraprofessional workforce. The elimination of seniority would have ruinous consequences in the delivery of paraprofessional services well beyond the years when this superintendent departs from office.
I believe that the loss of 37 paraprofessional positions has been injurious to our district's well-being and has made our system poorer. The proposed measure to eliminate seniority would further undermine the efficacy of our district's paraprofessional workforce to provide and secure a quality education for all of our students.
Antonio P. Pagliarulo, Dalton