Change is in the air…

By now it shouldn’t be news to a paraeducator in the state of Washington. In case you haven’t heard, change is in the air. I’m not talking about seasonal change, like leaves changing color or the temperature dropping; although that would be true.

No, the change I am talking about is more of a sea-change or maybe even a paradigm shift. One that will forever change the course of public education in every community in Washington. Melodrama aside this is big and the change has already begun. While the direct effects have yet to be felt at the local level, it is safe to say that by September 1, 2018 we will begin to feel them.

Earlier this month the Paraeducator Board met for our second full-board meeting and the actions we took set the wheels in motion to have several key parts of the Paraeducator Bill (HB 1115) in place by the beginning of the 2018-19 school year.

First, we approved the Basic Paraeducator Standards of Practice originally developed by the Paraeductor Workgroup. These standards will guide the board’s work in developing the four-day fundamental training and 10 day professional development for the Paraeducator General Certificate. These trainings will be piloted by several districts beginning next school year. After the pilot period the General Certificate will become a requirement for all new and current paraeducators (if the Legislature provides funding for the training days). If they don’t provide the funding, then training will be voluntary.

Second, we approved the Special Education and ELL Standards of Practice developed by the Paraeducator Workgroup. These standards will also be used to develop the 20 hours of professional development for these two voluntary subject matter certificates.

Third, we approved the Teacher and Administrator Professional Learning recommendations of the Paraeducator Workgroup. These recommendations will be used to create training modules made available to teachers and administrators for their professional development.

Finally, we approved the “Paraeducators: What We Do Matters” training modules based on the recommendations of the subcommittee review. These online modules will become a component for meeting the training requirements for the General Certificate. The modules are already active so feel free to explore them (click here and create an account) and provide feedback to the Para Board (click here).

There is one concern that I have heard expressed by Paraeducators at every opportunity I have had to meet with them. “Will the ‘Initial Hiring Standards’ apply to paraeducators already employed by a district.” The short answer is “YES.”

ALL paraeductors in the state of Washington will be required to meet the Initial Hiring Standards on September 1, 2018. Please check with your human resources department about whether you meet the hiring standards. What we need to remind you is that these standards are the same standards that have been in place for Title I paraeducators, Title I schools, or Title I school districts. I confirmed this with the OSPI consultant that has been part of the development of the paraeductor standards from the beginning of this process. Dr. Adams explained that the Legislature was very clear that there was NO “grandfathering” allowed. So, if you are not sure that you will meet this standard September of next year, do not wait. Talk to your HR department, talk to your union representative, talk to your co-workers; find out what you need and how you are going to accomplish it. My chapter has been telling its members for years that this was coming. My chapter was also just informed that our district will be making a formal announcement to our members by January. If need be, talk to your district about doing the same thing.

Change can be difficult, even good change. Remember, you can be part of the change.

Change is in the air…are you ready?

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