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School Board to Seto: Look Into Privatizing Teachers’ Aides

Schools Superintendent Edward Seto was directed by the Board of Education to inlcude privatizing paraprofessionals in his office's search for budget savings.

Schools Superintendent Edward Seto was directed by the Board of Education to include privatizing paraprofessionals in his office’s search for budget savings.

Schools Superintendent Edward Seto on Dec. 19 was given the green light to study privatizing the school district’s 125 paraprofessionals next year.

The approval came in the form of a Board of Education resolution which also included direction to study all other possible cost-cutting measures, including limiting the use of consultants.

Board vice president Eva Nagy cast the lone “no” vote for the proposal. Nagy said she objected to studying the privatizing issue yet again because the the idea was rejected by district administration and the school board just last March.

“I don’t see how further study will bring new information,” Nagy said. “This same board voted it down last March. A majority of us felt we did not want to privatize. To bring this up again, after people have had cuts in salary, is not fair.”

Seto at the Dec. 12 board workshop meeting asked for the board’s guidance in whether his office should study whether privatizing the paraprofessional staff – teacher’s aides – would save the district enough money to be worthwhile. It was the third time in three years that privatization has come up.

The matter was a late addition to the board’s Dec. 19 action meeting agenda.

Board member Keisha Smith-Carrington at the latter meeting said that in looking at privatizing the paraprofessionals, Seto’s staff should find out whether the cost savings “will hold over time,” and also if the outsourced paraprofessionals will be paid less through an outside company, even if the district is paying the company the same rate.

Smith-Carrington also suggested that Seto’s staff not only look into the paraprofessional question, but also at other areas where budget savings might be found.

In particular, Smith-Carrington said, the district’s use of consultants should be reviewed.

Other board members supported Smith-Carrington’s suggestion.

Board member Richard Seamon – in his last board meeting as a member – said “it is imperative that the board and the administration try to identify as many opportunities for savings as possible.”

“It’s incumbent upon the board to make that effort,” he said. “It’s one of the most significant things we’re asked to do.”

Responding to Nagy’s concern, board member Robert Trautmann said the paraprofessional study should include asking other districts that have followed that route how the decision affected students.

Before the vote, Seto said he’d hoped the paraprofessional question would be dealt with separately from other possible cost savings issues, noting that his staff was already going to be looking at other cost-saving proposals.

He said he simply wanted the board’s direction on whether privatizing the paraprofessional staff should be included.

“You asked for the board’s direction, and you got it,” board president Julia Presley joked.

After the vote, Seto asked the board members to email in their suggestions on what other potential cost savings should be studied.

Earlier in the meting, during the public comment portion, Anna Boardman, who said she was a paraprofessional in the district, told the board that every other time privatization has come up, the community “overwhelmingly” told the board “that this is not an option they want on the table.”

“Last time, we gave back 10 percent of our salary,” she said. “I’m so tired of begging for the job that I love.”

“I’m sick and tired of the paraprofessionals being the ones who are put on the table so the politicking can begin and then pulled off at the last minute so some can look like heroes,” she said.

At the Dec. 12 meeting, Seto said privatization was a way to deal with costs associated with “unanticipated growth in enrollment numbers” of special education students.

“The fiscal realities evident last year will not change,” Seto told the board. Current employees could return next year, he said, with the difference being that they would be employed by an outside agency, saving the district salary and benefit costs.

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