Teachers ask for more special education support, training in school budget

Mar 5, 2019

As district officials continue hammering out the 2020 school budget, teachers and staff are asking for more support for students with special needs.

Although the school budget was on the March 4 School Committee agenda, most of the discussion came from teachers concerned about items not included in the budget.

Renee Vieira, President of the Dartmouth Educators Association, addressed concerns she’s heard from teachers in the school system during the meeting’s public forum segment, including large class sizes at the high school, which could put students at risk in classes like science and art labs with heavy machinery and lab equipment.

Vieira also said there is a feeling by some teachers there is not enough support being provided in special education, specifically programs like the Promoting Academics and Life Skills (PALS) program, which supports students with disabilities. Staffing is also an issue, she said, with teacher assistants and substitutes sometimes forced to take on additional responsibilities including one-on-one support for special needs students.

“We’re asking for more support and training,” Vieira said. “We want to educate children because we love our jobs and are dedicated to our craft. We need to keep students safe, and educate all students.”

Quinn Elementary occupational therapist Kathleen Baldwin noted one of the items not included in the budget is a board certified behavioral analyst, which she said is needed in the district.

School Committee Chairman John Nunes said members of the budget subcommittee will be meeting with Vieira and teachers to discuss these issues.

“I just want to make sure when we’re looking at the budget, if there’s any flexibility in the budget, to support some of these needs that were addressed,” Nunes said.  

Member Chris Oliver noted the budget subcommittee had brought up additional training being sought by the district's paraprofessionals.

“I agree that we should take a look and see if there’s anything we can do,” Oliver said.

The district’s current $44.2 million 2020 budget proposal is still in draft form. Most of the new additions include additional staffing at various schools to support technology, special education, and cut down class sizes. 

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for the next School Committee meeting on March 18.