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District Abandons Paraprofessional Outsourcing Proposal, Says Staff Reductions Still ‘Part Of The Equation’

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Interim schools Superintendent Eveny Pagan said that outsourcing the district’s paraprofessionals is no longer on the table for the 2014-2015 school year, but that other staff reductions “are still in the equation.”

The school district is no longer considering outsourcing its 123 paraprofessionals as a means to bridge a $1.7 million budget gap, but it has not ruled out some type of staff reduction.

In a letter sent to staff members and posted on the district Web site, interim schools Superintendent Eveny Pagan said outsourcing the paraprofessionals “is no longer a consideration for the 2014-2015 school year.”

“To close the remaining $1.75 million gap, however, other difficult decisions will have to be made regarding budget reductions and their impact on personnel,” Pagan said in the letter. “Over the next few weeks, as decisions are made, they will be shared with the school community and presented as part of the preliminary budget on March 18th.”

“Our task, to bring the 2014-2015 budget to cap, comes with great sacrifice,” Pagan said in the letter. “In a growth budget which is made up of 91 (percent) personnel, reductions in staff remain part of the equation. We assure you, however, that we are thoughtfully and responsibly examining all areas of the budget for efficiencies in order to make recommendations that will have the least impact on our students, instructional programs, and staff.”

As it had in each of the past two years in which it was proposed, the idea of outsourcing the district’s teachers’ aides was met with stiff opposition. Paraprofessionals and their supporters packed the last two Board of Education meetings and spoke for a total of three hours against the measure.

The district was considering outsourcing the aides to a company such as the Hunterdon County Educational Services Commission. District officials estimated they could save $673,000 the first year, and as much as $1.1 million by the 2017-2018 school year.

But the paras and their supporters argued that outsourcing them would mean many would leave rather than work for a new company offering less pay and worse benefits.

That, they argued, would affect the children they help who have grown accustomed to them.

In her letter, Pagan said the administration is “grateful to our staff for their support during this budget process.  We will continue to listen to your thoughts and attentively consider the feedback and suggestions of the Franklin school community throughout.”

The administration is also considering outsourcing substitute teachers. No recommendation had been made as yet on that proposal, Pagan has said, because the district is still gathering information.

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