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Pinellas schools to cut ESE aide positions

Published Apr. 7, 2014

Pinellas County will be cutting ESE teaching aide positions. This is something we know.

"The total number of ESE associates will be going down," district spokeswoman Melanie Marquez Parra wrote in an email on March 21.

Since then, Gradebook has been pressing to know how many positions will be cut, as well as where and why. ESE aides support teachers and work directly with students with special needs.

The district has repeatedly declined to provide this information, saying the cuts are up in the air. Parra has said multiple times that nobody will lose their jobs. Instead, the district will eliminate open positions, transfer aides to different schools, and not hire to replace aides who are retiring or resigning.

However, emails and calls from parents (both to the Gradebook and the school board) make it clear that people are concerned about fewer resources for children. It's also very clear that some concrete decisions have been made, such as the elimination of units at Osceola Middle School.

The district also won't comment on how the ratio of aide to special-needs student will be affected.

The cuts "are not finalized," Parra wrote as a means to decline the Gradebook's request on April 1.

It's reasonable that these numbers would fluctuate. Budgets are still being sorted out. But some decisions have clearly already been made.

Take this excerpt from an email that Donna Johnson, a social studies teacher at Osceola Middle, sent to school board members Linda Lerner and Terry Krassner, which seems to indicate the district is cutting Osceola's program and moving the teachers:

I have always admired how you advocate for teachers as well. That is the main reason I am writing: to enlist your assistance to advocate for our special education students in Mrs. Jill Shircliff-Cicero's classroom and those in Ms. Lucinda (Cindy) Parramore's classroom. I have thought of many reasons for their programs to stay at our school instead of being transferred to another school. These teachers have been an integral part of our family for many years. Many of the reasons I could list about the teachers personally, would carry over to another school.

Or this email from Stefanie Perazzo, an ESE teacher at Osceola:

I wanted to express my feelings and thoughts towards the removal of our MMI departments at Osceola Middle School. I have worked at OMS for over six years as a teacher for students with Asperger's. I have had the privilege and honor to work as an ESE teacher and learn from Mrs. Shircliff/Cercio and Ms. Parramore. So you could imagine my surprise when our department was informed that their established and well respected classrooms would be closed/moved. Cindy and Jill's units have been used to model other units across the county including my own. It was due to the success of their units that we were able to establish and successful launch the Aspeger's unit at OMS. It would be an injustice to our ESE and general education students, teachers, and parents to remove the MMI units from our school.

While it's very likely that numbers are not final, as the district says, it's also clear decisions have been made.

So the Gradebook wrote, "Please tell me how many aide positions are slated to be cut as of this time. It is clear numbers are out there and have been communicated to schools."

Parra declined to provide this information again, saying only, "The overall change in the number of ESE associates for next year fluctuates daily as the staffing is planned."

More from Parra: "The ratio of associates to students will change in some classes, but not in all classes. At the secondary level there are ESE classes considered mild, moderate or intensive. In the new staffing model the number of associates per moderate unit and intensive unit will go from two to one with the understanding that additional associates will be added based on student need. For blended Pre-K classes the model will go from a teacher, an associate, and a Child Development Associate (CDA) to a teacher and a CDA with the understanding that an associate will be added based on student need. Most other ESE classes will not see a change in the number of associates. The ESE department is in the process of reviewing the classes that may be impacted to determine the staffing needs for next year. This is an ongoing process that will continue during the summer as student enrollment changes."

Email us or tell us in the comments about cuts at your school.