Kindergarten classes need paraeducators on their teams

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

When I recently read about the plans for the upcoming school budget to cut the positions of the kindergarten paraeducators I truly felt sick to my stomach.

I'm not one to publicly speak up about an issue, but this is something I truly feel is important. I'm a parent of four children in the St. Mary's County public school system; one graduated from Chopticon last June and I currently have three younger children (one child in third grade and the other two in kindergarten) in Mechanicsville Elementary School. I am also a weekly parent volunteer at MES who works closely with the paraeducators.

The kindergarten teams are extremely priceless to me as a parent. I can't even begin to imagine these teams breaking up. When my 8-year-old entered MES as a kindergartner (without any formal preschool education), I was nervous because we were rather new to the county and didn't know what to expect from this school. However, my concerns quickly diminished. My son excelled with the excellent teaching skills of his kindergarten team. Now that our twins have entered kindergarten this school year, I had some anxiety with splitting them up. However, my concerns were lessened once again when I saw how well they performed even in two different classrooms. The kindergarten teams are exactly that, a team.

Selfishly, I can say that I'm grateful that my kids will be completing kindergarten this year, but will greatly miss the paraeducators who may be let go from MES if this proposed cutback is approved. It's heartbreaking to lose such valuable individuals in a school that is performing so well. How can you honestly take these valuable resources away from our children? With all due respect, I certainly do not agree with the cut back decision as it affects the paraeducators at MES.

I appreciate the letter to the editor by Barbara Turner, a paraeducator herself, which ran in The Enterprise on March 16. She is correct; we all should do what is right for all of the paraeducators in the county. I agree that the paraeducators shouldn't be shared. Children need consistency. 

St. Mary's County kindergarten teachers and paraeducators have a tough job each school year. Some children attend preschool, others do not, there are involved parents and then there are those that are not. The teachers and paraeducators see it all. Some things learned prior to kindergarten may need to be "retaught" for whatever circumstances may have been dealt for that child. We need our teachers with their paraeducators.

We moved to St. Mary's County 7 years ago from Montgomery County, whose kindergarten class sizes were being reduced at that time to 14 to 15 students per classroom with paraeducators. Both my children's kindergarten classes already have 20 students per class. Now there may be a chance that the classroom sizes will be higher in the number of students without the paraeducators. I'm afraid the children are going to suffer because of these decisions. It is my hope and prayer that the decision-makers rethink their decision to cut back the jobs of these great paraeducators.

MES is a small school that I'm sure has already been operating on a tight budget, but to cut it back any further will be at the cost of the children attending there. I'm writing this letter in strong support of our paraeducators at MES, and I honestly can't see MES losing any of the other valuable individuals who help educate our children in that school that would be affected by this cutback also.

Save our paraeducators. I implore the St. Mary's County commissioners to help fund our school system so no valuable paraeducator is let go. Our children in St. Mary's County need your help. Please fund St. Mary's County public school to save the positions of our paraeducators.

Robin M. Post, Mechanicsville