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On Oct. 23, my colleague, LeeAnn LaRock, delivered eloquent and passionate remarks at the Branford Board of Education (BOE) meeting, pointing out that paraprofessionals care for our children in a myriad of ways.
Although we do not teach new material, we reteach reading, writing, and math lessons to students who struggle or simply need more practice. We work in small groups to ensure students understand the material that has been taught by the classroom teacher. And the best part: We succeed. How do I know? Our efforts are supported by the data.
For students at risk, we intervene to help them reach their potential. We reinforce the behavioral expectations of the classroom teacher. We toilet children, we keep them safe on the playground, we monitor them at lunch, and we are certified to administer life-saving drugs. We tie shoes, zip coats, and teach social emotional skills. We love what we do.
The Branford paraprofessionals can no longer remain silent. Our contract with the town expired on June 30, and since then we have been working without a contract. The paraprofessional union has been in negotiations with the BOE since January but has not reached an agreement. Sadly, both sides are worlds apart.
We do not understand why other support staff in Branford have an hourly wage and benefit levels significantly higher than ours. We are paid considerably less than other bargaining units in town yet are required to have the equivalent of an associate’s degree. Sixty-five percent of paras currently earn $14.33 per hour. The offer put forth by the BOE is an insult. We are integral to providing the best education and care to our students. We have been told we are respected, however, actions speak louder than words.
The BOE should do the right thing and pay us a living wage.
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