“Green, Candidate for School Committee, Calls for Hiring Help for Teachers and Students”


In the course of my campaign for School Committee, I’ve spent the summer walking all over Ward 4, from my home street of Governor Winthrop to Lee St. While I’ve been talking to residents throughout Winter and Ten Hills about the need to address the Achievement Gap and to get our teachers and students the resources they need to thrive; mostly I’ve been listening. Listening to parents concerned about the attention and support their children are receiving in the classroom. Listening to people who’ve had to fight with the school system simply to get access to the individualized special education services they’re legally (and morally) entitled to. Listening to hard working school employees unable to give their best work, because they’re stretched too thin.

Working at YouthBuild USA, I get to speak to many young people who struggled in traditional education and dropped out. When they tell their stories, almost invariably they speak of lacking adult figures invested in their educations. This is a feeling no student in Somerville should ever experience. We have it in our power to provide students the caring adults they crave, teachers the support they need, and everyone access to the resources they deserve. Somerville Public Schools are served by a corps of hard working paraprofessionals (or “paras”) who provide often thankless assistance in the classrooms, providing teachers a much needed second set of eyes and hands and students an often appreciated second heart and shoulders upon which to depend. But we don’t have enough of them.

Somerville needs a paraprofessional in every classroom and every student with an IEP deserves access to a para. We cannot address the Opportunity gap without providing our most vulnerable students with the extra support they need, and it’s not fair to teachers to expect them to be solely responsible for providing that support while managing an entire classroom. As a former teacher, I can attest to the difficulty of managing even a “small” class. Giving every student the best chance to succeed has to begin with giving each instructor the best chance to have a classroom that works for everyone.

Expanding access to paras will do more than alleviate the burden on teachers and provide extra support. By more explicitly tying paraprofessionals to the support of IEPs we can better address the sense that parents must become experts in special education law in order to get their children the services they deserve. Across the socioeconomic spectrum we hear tales of a special education system that, in the name of being stewards of scarce resources, is too often adversarial with the parents of whom it should be allies. By making paras universally available and mainstreaming the implementation of those services, we reduce the opportunity cost to parents, teachers, and schools providingindividualized support, while reducing the stigma in receiving those services for students. 

I understand that, rising property values aside, Somerville doesn’t have an infinite money supply and these sorts of changes take time, but I look forward to working with the School Committee and Superintendent Skipper to start with the largest classrooms in the city as we expand the paraprofessional program. We can all look back on adults who took a special interest in us at some point in our educational careers-if you were lucky you can look back at a number of them. By increasing the number of caring adults in the classroom, we are providing those sorts of opportunities for our children> To the child who is able to connect to their education through that para, that gift is priceless.


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