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Assistants will be missed by teachers

• 30 resource instructional helpers will be eliminated by Hart district.

Posted: April 23, 2008 2:19 a.m.
Updated: June 24, 2008 5:02 a.m.
 
When the Hart district reduced its resource instructional assistants by 30 as part of the cuts made to meet the state's proposed budget requirements, some people may not have realized that move would completely eliminate the position.

The resource instructional assistants help the resource teachers by reading tests to students who have difficulty reading, providing math support and assisting resource students in the mainstream classrooms. The Resource Specialist Program serves students who are in the special education program less than 50 percent of their school day, spending most of their time in a regular classroom.

"When they said they were eliminating 30 positions, I didn't realize that was all we had," said West Ranch High School resource teacher Sharon Rubottom. "This is serious. These are the kids who are struggling, and these are the kids who need the most attention." Terry Shiner, director of classified personnel for the William S. Hart Union High School District, said that while the majority of the positions are being eliminated, the district's special education department is in the process of restructuring in order to meet the needs of the students.

"The special education department is reconfiguring how many instructional assistants each school site will get," Shiner said. "I do know that, based on this restructuring, they don't want the program to suffer."

Shiner held a meeting Thursday with all of the resource instructional assistants to let them know the positions had been eliminated. For some, it was the first they had heard about it.

"They said the resource assistants are being eliminated," said Teresa Avila, an instructional assistant at Saugus High School for 12 years. "No one had told me anything about it."

According to Shiner, the district hopes to move all of the resource instructional assistants to other positions so that no one will lose their job.

"I have every hope that no one will be without a position next year," Shiner said.

Avila is concerned about how the needs of the resource students will be met without the instructional assistants. The number of resource instructional assistants was already cut by 50 percent two years ago, forcing teachers to share one assistant between them, she said.

"It was already overwhelming, but now they are totally eliminating all the resource assistants. I don't think the public is aware of how much the students are going to be affected," Avila said. "How are the (resource teachers) going to be able to meet the needs of these students and comply with their Individualized Education Programs?"

Rubottom has a unique perspective, having been an instructional assistant for 13 years before becoming credentialed and serving the district as a resource teacher for the past nine years.

"I know both sides, and it has been a struggle for the past two years to do without a full time assistant," Rubottom said. "I just think other things in the budget could have been looked at to cut - I would like for (the board) to reconsider."

Rubottom hopes the district will decide to maintain the current number of resource instructional assistants, saying that sharing an assistant with another teacher would be better than not having one at all.

"It will be very difficult for us to maintain these students' IEPs without the assistants," she said. "Hopefully the parents will come behind us and rally for their students."

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