Pandemic Recovery requires ESPs – Open Letter to Superintendent Dorland

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ESPs play a critical role in student success. We can’t support our students if there are critical shortages of support staff. For a successful pandemic recovery plan, we need to attract and retain ESPs. We work to make sure students are safe, healthy, engaged, supported, and challenged, and we are critical to the success of our students and our schools! Will you stand with your coworkers to demand better for Jeffco students?

Dear Superintendent Dorland,

Welcome to Jeffco! We are hopeful that in your first 100 days you will be able to continue making great strides in helping shift course to a brighter future for our students and staff in Jeffco Public Schools!

We want to make sure that you hear directly from us, the Education Support Professionals (ESPs) who serve our students, our teachers, our administrators, and our community every day.

ESPs strive to break down barriers that impact students’ health and readiness to learn. In your pandemic recovery plan, we hope you will consider that we play a key role. We look to the concept of the “Whole School, Whole Community, and Whole Child” developed by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD). This concept establishes a model for ensuring that students are healthy, safe, engaged, challenged, and supported.

At current staffing levels in Jeffco Public Schools, ESP working in key areas like custodial, transportation, food services, and direct classroom support staff like paraprofessionals and paraeducators, are simply not able to appropriately meet the needs of the “Whole Child”. For the past ten years or so, Jeffco Public Schools has struggled to attract and retain Education Support Professionals (ESP). We lose hundreds of ESP each year as they leave the district for other pursuits.

When the district engages, year in and year out, in a budgeting process that does not prioritize the hiring and retaining of ESP, the message is that the well-being of our students is not the priority. We do not believe that the district intentionally seeks to deprioritize student success, but indeed that is the outcome of the misguided budgeting practice. We must strive to create a culture in Jeffco that attracts and retains qualified professionals who will work hard to increase the odds of student success.

As the new leader of our district, we are asking that you be part of the change that we need to see in Jeffco Public Schools. We will commit to partner with you!

First, we ask that you raise the minimum wage and provide for fair compensation increases. A 1% COLA for the lowest-paid Jeffco employees such as preschool educators, paraprofessionals, and food service workers would be just 13 cents per hour. This is just not enough to address the huge number of unfilled positions and high turnover in these crucial positions. An equal percentage increase for all serves to further widen the gap and increase inequities between the lowest and highest paid Jeffco employees.

Second, we ask for respect and a voice. ESPs are more likely to live in the communities where we work and to be parents and grandparents of Jeffco students. We care deeply about the success of our students and our school district. Many of us transition to Jeffco careers after being active school volunteers, PTA members, and community partners. We must be protected when we speak up about learning and working conditions when we join Jeffco as employees. The culture of fear and retaliation in many of our schools and departments cannot continue if we are to achieve our collective goals and work as a team.

We ask that you come to the bargaining table to work with us to make ESPs a true and valued part of #TeamJeffco.

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Jeffco Education Support Professionals ensure the safety, health, and success of all students.

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