I started my teaching career in the fall of 1986 in upstate New York as a ‘paraprofessional’ or ‘para’. I worked with small groups of immigrants, small groups of second language learners, and individually with students who had very intense special needs. I earned the lofty sum of $5.25 an hour, and considered myself lucky to get this foot in the door in a quality school district. Paras are an immensely helpful piece in the puzzle that is public education-they free up important time for the classroom teacher, and often provide the extra boost of attention that children of color, poor children and second language learners so desperately need. As a newly licensed teacher, I was glad to get into a building with experienced, quality people.
Meet some of the children of Stein Elementary, Visitors.
Stein Elementary is one of a dozens of Jefferson County schools that are staggering under the weight of the de facto apartheid that is Jeffco.
Stein is located in an area of Jeffco considered very undesirable. Urban blight is present near Stein, unemployment is higher, and poverty is endemic. The student population reflects that. Consider these descriptors of Stein:
Nine out of ten Stein children are not white.
Eight out of ten children at Stein get a free, federally sponsored lunch. (That means they are classified as poor. )
For my international Visitors, free and reduced lunch families qualify for this benefit when the adults in the household earn around 11$/hour US. For example, a family of four that earns about 44,000$/year can apply for free lunches for the children. This assumes two earning adults. Not a bad program, in my opinion.)
Slightly more than HALF of Stein children do not speak English, or do not speak it well enough to succeed in school.
When sixth graders graduate from Stein, three out of four do not have a grasp of science.
One out of two Stein graduates cannot perform math anywhere near grade level.
Thankfully, writing scores are creeping up. Only four out of ten Stein graduates need extra help with writing after graduating Stein.
Now, consider this, Visitors. Teaching is a very time-intensive profession. The best elementary teachers I know, and I know many, plan for as much ‘face time’ with children as possible. The best grade school teaching happens in small groups, or individual interactions. When that teacher actually bends down by a desk, actually reviews the project, critiques the writing, oversees the activity, that is where children make progress.
Paras extend the reach of a classroom teacher considerably. Paras are used by Stein, often in positions of reinforcing critical language concepts, which these limited English speakers so desperately need. Yet, Stein has a long, long way to go. With HALF of Stein’s population speaking little English, Stein can benefit from any available Jeffco resources.
Enter this man- Michael Blanton.
Blanton is an attorney, of the type my 95 year old dad would call an ‘ambulance chaser.’ He runs a firm that deals almost exclusively in personal injury cases. You’ve seen the type of firm, the kind that runs advertisements in the middle of the day, aimed at the recovering victim who hopes to wring as much money out of the insurance company as possible, and will do so, with Blanton’s help.
Blanton and McCord were part of a group that successfully forced this recall down the throat of Jeffco voters. A few days ago, we learned that cost Jefferson County voters about 225,000$ US.
Now, those of us tracking with this remember when McCord, an established liar, and Blanton, the attorney, said this through spokesperson Lynea Hanson.
“We ( McCord, Blanton and third partner, Tina Gurdikian) have been told there will not be additional costs for the recall if we are on the November ballot with the existing school board election,” Wendy McCord told Complete Colorado last July in a statement through the group’s media contact, Lynea Hansen.(http://completecolorado.com/pagetwo/2015/07/02/jeffco-recall-organizers-face-short-time-to-collect-signatures-or-big-expenses-to-district/)
Gracious. You just can’t make this stuff up. Two lawyers in this effort, blatantly, provably lying about this entire recall. It’s pretty easy to figure out that this is a surefire way for Blanton self-promote, and McCord has her own reasons for being so hateful.
Visitors, I’ve often said that when you want to make a difference in the world, it doesn’t matter what you think. It doesn’t matter what you say. It certainly doesn’t matter what you feel.
It only matters what you do.
Sit with that a minute.
It only matters what you do. This is what Blanton, McCord and Gurdikian did for the children of Stein.
They spent $225,000 of our tax dollars forcing this misguided recall. Experienced paraprofessionals cost the district about 23,000 a year.
TEN paraprofessionals could have plunged into the population of Stein, working with limited English speakers, implementing teachers’ science plans, checking and reviewing math work.
Thanks to my brother and his colleagues, experienced teachers now start around 40k$, with full benefits. FIVE experienced classroom teachers could have started at Stein, decreasing class size, applying expertise to limited English speakers, reviving a dimming interest in science. That alone would have likely changed the lives of Stein students for the better.
Not going to happen,Michael.
Stein will continue to go without, Tina and Wendy.
Few problems can be solved with more money, but some can. We certainly could have gotten a head start at Stein, we could have made the difference for hundreds of children. Instead Wendy, Tina and Michael made sure that the Jeffco Apartheid stays in place for several more years. THIS is what recall supporters voted in.