Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Education

Classroom aides get training in special education teamwork

TAMPA — The teacher was set in his ways. His classroom aide had life experience, but she had no training.

He corrected her in front of the students. She felt isolated and undermined. Each was too busy to meet with the other.

The scenario, acted out Wednesday at Jefferson High School, is based on a real classroom situation that dragged on for months.

"It didn't get better because they didn't do the things they needed to do to improve the relationship," Nancy French, an expert in paraprofessionals, told an audience of special-needs aides.

It was a first for Hillsborough County: required training for workers who care for 29,000 learning-disabled or medically fragile students in exceptional student education, or ESE.

Each paraprofessional went through a half-day session led by French, who has studied and written about teacher-aide relationships for 20 years.

"Roles don't have to be equal in order to be equally relevant and important," she said before diving into issues that cause working relationships to break down.

Work styles and personality differences all play a part, she said. Unfortunately, ESE teachers often leave college with little to no training in how to supervise their aides.

The training emerged from a work group superintendent MaryEllen Elia formed in November after two student deaths. It wraps up today at Spoto High School and cost the district about $22,200 for more than 800 participants.

Participants were given materials they can bring to school to sharpen their relationship with co-workers and teachers, who will receive their own set.

Clarence Elliot, 47, nodded and laughed through much of the presentation. "It's really things we all know, but now we're getting on the same page," he said.

Elliot is an aide at LaVoy Exceptional Center, where some students are not only disabled, but aggressive.

"You have a thick skin," he said. "You have to love what you do. And you have to have a whole lot of patience."

Regina Williams, 56, has worked at Coleman Middle School for eight years. She said the session made her feel more confident about her work.

"Communication is definitely one of the key things," she said. "It's important for us to be able to talk to each other and figure out where we need to be with each other." In arranging the session, she said, the district is "definitely going the extra mile in order for us to be prepared."

In addition to this week's sessions, the district has produced safety videos and other training materials that principals will present in the preparation days before school begins Tuesday. Topics include elopement, a term that describes ESE students who run away from school, and a reminder that all employees are responsible for all students.

"We have to develop a positive culture," said deputy superintendent Jeff Eakins, who opened the session with a story from his days as an assistant principal. A young woman returned to the school, he said, asking about her favorite teacher, who turned out to be an aide.

"That was the person that she saw in her elementary career at that school as her teacher," Eakins said. "So I know that in the eyes of many of your students, you're seen the same way."

The district hopes to create career paths for paraprofessionals who would like to become teachers, Eakins said.

Separately, the Hillsborough Classroom Teachers Association is in contract negotiations with the hope that wages, which now start at $8.42 an hour, will rise. A Tampa Bay Times study last year showed yearly earnings for Hillsborough ESE aides lag behind many other Florida districts, partly because of high turnover.

Union specialist Pam Jufko said the two sides are near an agreement that would address that disparity. "You will be getting something, but I can't tell you what," she told the aides, who applauded the news.

Marlene Sokol can be reached at (813) 226-3356 or [email protected]

Comments
Ethan Hooper steps up with a salute to teachers

Ethan Hooper steps up with a salute to teachers

Editor’s note: Ethan Hooper wrote today’s column to give Ernest Hooper Father’s Day off.In May, I graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in elementary education, and I recently secured a job as a first-grade teacher with Orang...
Published: 06/18/18
AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

Since 2002, the AP World History course has covered thousands of years of human activity around the planet, starting 10,000 years back. But now the College Board, which owns the Advanced Placement program, wants to cut out most of that history and st...
Published: 06/16/18
School board races attract new faces

School board races attract new faces

TAMPA — When long-time Hillsborough County School Board member Susan Valdes resigned this month from the board to run for the State House of Representatives, the decision affected more than just her seat in west Hillsborough’s District 1.It also coul...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/17/18
Hillsborough schools tax referendum is unlikely for November

Hillsborough schools tax referendum is unlikely for November

TAMPA — Money that the Hillsborough County School District needs to build schools and replace air conditioners might be farther from reach, thanks to a new state law and a bureaucratic process required before the voters can decide on a tax referendum...
Published: 06/14/18
University of Chicago eliminates SAT/ACT requirement

University of Chicago eliminates SAT/ACT requirement

The University of Chicago will no longer require ACT or SAT scores from U.S. students, sending a jolt through elite institutions of higher education as it becomes the first top-10 research university to join the test-optional movement.Numerous school...
Published: 06/14/18
Unhappy with superintendent’s budget wish list, Hernando School Board shuts down talk of tax increase

Unhappy with superintendent’s budget wish list, Hernando School Board shuts down talk of tax increase

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County schools Superintendent Lori Romano presented to the School Board Tuesday nearly $53 million worth of budget priorities, asking them to choose which will be funded in the upcoming school year.The board voted 3-2 later Tue...
Published: 06/13/18
UT shines the spotlight on visiting authors

UT shines the spotlight on visiting authors

The University of Tampa’s MFA program will host the June 2018 Residency Visiting Writers Lectores Series that runs from now until June 21 on the ninth floor of the Vaughn Center, 401 W Kennedy Blvd. Each reading will be held at 7:30 p.m.Each January ...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/15/18
Hernando School Board fires Superintendent Lori Romano after member says she ‘lost the public trust’

Hernando School Board fires Superintendent Lori Romano after member says she ‘lost the public trust’

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County schools Superintendent Lori Romano will step down at the end of this month following a 3-2 vote by the School Board to terminate its contract with her amid increasing concerns about her ability to lead.Romano has suffere...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/13/18
Pasco summit aims to merge school cultures while making students feel included

Pasco summit aims to merge school cultures while making students feel included

NEW PORT RICHEY — The dozen Fivay High school students and their administrators arrived at the Pasco County school district’s annual Together We Stand conference with a clear goal in mind.With hundreds of former Ridgewood High students arriving in th...
Published: 06/12/18
Central’s air rifle team prepares for national competition

Central’s air rifle team prepares for national competition

BROOKSVILLE — Historic Camp Perry is where it’s at. Located near Clinton, Ohio, the National Guard training facility is where the nation’s top shooters go to compete.Next week, some of Hernando County’s top shooters compete there in the Civilian Mark...
Published: 06/11/18
Updated: 06/14/18