Valley View School District's administration is touting a reduction in its staff of paraprofessionals as a "quality over quantity move" and not a budget cutting measure.
On March 25, Superintendent James Mitchem unveiled a plan to replace 142 of the district's paraprofessionals with 71 certified reading and special education teachers for next school year — a move Mitchem called a necessary step to improving students' academic well-being.
The district may re-hire about 30 of the 142 losing their jobs and place them in various aide and administration roles.
Each Valley View school will replace its four paraprofessionals and two reading professionals with four certified reading teachers — a model used by multiple Valley View schools over the past few years.
The Valley View School Board approved the recommendation with a 5 to 2 vote. Board members Elizabeth Campbell and Jim Curran voted against the proposal.
Mitchem said the cuts will not save the district any money — any expenses saved by discontinuing the paraprofessional program will go toward hiring the certified reading specialists.
Mitchem insisted the change is in the best interest of the students.
"We knew this would be a controversial issue, but we are not going to allow controversy to paralyze the decision-making process," Mitchem said, adding that far too often the board is "paralyzed" by public sentiment.
Mitchem and the board also explained that the district will still comply with IDEA regulations requiring a paraprofessional to assist students with severe disabilities.
Still, hundreds of concerned parents, teachers and residents voiced their displeasure during the the March 25 school board meeting.
The board voted in favor of the move after about an hour of public comments.
"When I took this job two years ago, one of the biggest complaints was that our district was underperforming and that change was needed," Mitchem said. "I recognized at the time that implementation will cause trepidation and difficulty."