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Contract change aims to help displaced Decatur teaching assistants find new positions

Contract change aims to help displaced Decatur teaching assistants find new positions

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DECATUR — Teaching assistants who lost their jobs after the district restructured how it handles students with discipline problems have agreed to a contractual change with Decatur schools.

The change, approved at the June 12 school board meeting, allows the 24 teaching assistants to be recalled for any position they are qualified for, said Paula Busboom, president of the Decatur Federation of Teaching Assistants.

“Let's say I was a general education assistant, and all 24 were,” Busboom said. “The way the contractual language read, I could only be recalled to general education (positions), and we knew we weren't going to have very many of those. We entered into a discussion, and put it to a vote with the union membership, to change the language so (the teaching assistants) could be recalled in either regular education or special education, as long as they're qualified for those positions.”

The membership approved of that, and union and district leadership met with the school district's legal counsel to form an agreement that would get the 24 rehired as quickly as possible, she said.

The 24 teaching assistants that were displaced oversaw the district's Alternative Placement Rooms. The school board on March 27 approved a new position, student support facilitators, who are required to hold a bachelor's degree and will take over supervision of students in alternative placement due to discipline issues.

When the change was made, Superintendent Paul Fregeau said the reason for restructuring alternative placement was to comply with Senate Bill 100, which requires school districts to exhaust all other options prior to suspension or expulsion. A committee is working on specific guidelines for the student support facilitators and for alternative education.

With union seniority rules, displaced teaching assistants with seniority are presented with lists of open positions, and may choose where they want to be placed. The APR positions were 6.5 hours a day, more than the five hours most teaching assistants work, Busboom said, and an additional agreement with the school board allows those teaching assistants to retain their higher hourly wage, and the extra hour and a half, for the coming school year.

“The agreement also gave us the opportunity, the APR assistants, prior to making a decision as to the job they wish to have, a half day to go visit the (buildings) with open positions,” Busboom said.

Additionally, because teaching assistants pay for their whole year's health insurance premiums during the school year, those who chose to retire when their positions were eliminated will be covered by health insurance through Aug. 31, she said.

The teaching assistants' contract is in its final year, and Busboom anticipates bargaining to begin shortly after the beginning of 2019.

Contact Valerie Wells at (217) 421-7982. Follow her on Twitter: @modgirlreporter

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