EDDYVILLE — Faced with a nearly $138,000 increase in insurance costs the Eddyville-Blakesburg-Fremont School Board this week approved reducing the hours of all para-educators from about 37 to just 29 hours per week to avoid requirements of the National Health Care Act.
In February, Superintendent Dean Cook recommended cutting 12 special education para-educators and three more working as librarians. However, this week his recommendation instead was a choice of either cutting eight para-educators or to reduce the hours of all para-educators (around 25 to 28 employees), for the 2013-14 school year.
Board member David Friedman opted to reduce hours instead of cutting jobs, noting, “It just gets pretty tight when we have cut paras in the past. Those people play key roles in running the school.”
In fact, several teachers spoke to or wrote letters to the board, providing a detailed account of the jobs that para-educators perform, urging the board not to cut those positions.
“I feel very frustrated that our hands are tied with the health care act," said board member Gay Murphy.
She asked that employees’ hours be cut by working less days instead of less hours per day so that it will be easier for employees to get a second job if needed.
However, board member Mike Mayberry noted that quality employees may not stick around for a 29-hour per week job and that special education students have a need for more consistency that comes with full-time employees.
“I don’t think it’s going to work,” he said.
Meanwhile, a plan to reduce elementary school “specials” such as music, art and physical education classes to only one 45 minute session per week drew a standing-room-only crowd to this week’s board meeting with more than 20 concerned patrons urging board members to reconsider cuts during an open public forum.