June 09, 2016 01:26 PM
Baldwin County teachers and support professionals showed up en masse to support paraprofessionals at a May 19 Baldwin County Board of Education (BCBOE) Board meeting.
On the agenda was a proposal to outsource instructional assistant positions to a Huntsville-based company, Appleton Talent. According to the BCBOE and Superintendent Eddie Tyler, the school system believed it could save $800,000 a year if it outsourced school system positions to Appleton. In information sent out to local principals, instructional assistants currently on staff would supposedly be moved under Appleton’s employment and kept under the same rate of pay. The problem, however, is that the cost savings would almost certainly come by way of cutting benefits, or increasing costs for benefits, for the employees. More importantly, Baldwin County paraprofessionals were extremely concerned how the move would affect the special needs students who have had the same assistant working with them for years.
Baldwin County UniServ Director Nichole King was informed the BCBOE was considering the proposal and took action to inform her members and the 82 paraprofessionals it would affect. Although she had less than a day to organize, King worked diligently through social media and email to inform members while also attempting to inform BCBOE Board members of the concerns of the employees and possible consequences of the move to contract labor.
At the meeting, Board member Tony Myrick shared his concern for the students, stating, “The kids may suffer.” Myrick suggested cutting $400,000 from the school’s administration instead.
In the end, after a groundswell of support for the paraprofessionals, the BCBOE did not consider the proposal during the meeting. In a later statement, Superintendent Eddie Tyler said, “Please allow me to clarify a matter regarding the outsourcing of paraprofessionals, a proposal that was before the board last week. Let me be clear: this proposal to outsource special services paraprofessionals has been pulled from consideration. It is not being considered and there are no plans at this time to bring paras or any other group of employees back up for outsourcing.”
“We are so grateful that the paraprofessionals will remain employees of the Baldwin County Board of Education,” said Nichole King. “This was such a critical decision that would have impacted not only the livelihood of the paras, but also the students they work with daily.”