Residents Turn Out to Back Need for Support Personnel in Schools

By Kate Anslinger

At a recent meeting of the Winthrop School Committee, the community came out to support the Winthrop School district’s education support personnel (ESP) during a public hearing on the proposed FY17 school budget.

It is evident that the 15 ESP’s assigned to the district, are of great value to the students and teachers. Community members and fellow teachers raised questions and voiced their opinions regarding the possibility of cutting the budget and the ESP positions.

“I’m going to do whatever I can to create magic in order to increase and keep these positions,” said Superintendent of Schools John Macero. “I’m trying to make sure we don’t lose services.”

Currently, the cost to retain the 15 ESP positions is roughly $375,000 not including  benefits.

“I currently have a physically disabled student. The ESP helps bring him around to the bathroom and cafeteria, writes for him and makes it possible for him to participate in the classroom in addition to recess, gym and art,” said third grade teacher Kristen Reynolds. “There are 21 students in my class and with the help of the ESP, I’m able to teach and not be distracted.”

Student welfare seemed to be the biggest concern during the meeting. There is an overall fear that the loss of these staff members in the district will be detrimental to student achievement. School Committee members confirmed that students will not be denied an ESP as long as they are on an Individualized Education Program (IEP) that advises the presence of the ESP.

“I urge everyone to think long and hard about keeping the ESP’s,” said Fort Banks kindergarten teacher, Alisa Turner. “They truly are our most vulnerable students. They are both emotionally and physically dependent and they need the attention. It’s putting them at risk to take the ESP away. It’s a scary thought to think that somebody’s needs are not going to be met.”

The loss of grants has played a major role in the threat to relinquish certain positions, and the committee members and superintendent are brainstorming ways to ensure that no services are lost.

One of the ideas is to shift the kindergarten class sizes in order to keep all needed staff on board. A creative schedule may need to be put into place, much like the one that was launched in order to get full time music offered at the Arthur T. Cummings School. A little shifting and creativity may be necessary to get the students what they need.

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