Another school year starts with the stress of understaffing immediately apparent to our operations and school staff. This recurring question keeps us concerned – is the district deliberately under-staffing, allowing issues to persist without resolution to save money? It seems that way, when year after year, month after month, we raise the same concerns with staffing, while the district seems to pretend the problems with Education Support Professional (ESP) staffing don’t exist.
While we know that understaffing is a problem in many industries, blaming our high turnover and lack of staff on the economy while ignoring issues we can solve continues to be a problem.
Here are a few practices that fuel these concerns:
- Posting Jobs with Inaccurate Pay Rates: A common practice of posting the wrong wages to discourage potential candidates. It raises the question of whether the district is intentionally aiming to keep positions understaffed to save money, rather than valuing the well-being of the students ESPs serve.
- Cutting Hours to Beneath the Benefit Threshold: Offering positions just beneath the threshold required for employee health benefits is counterproductive.This practice might unintentionally dissuade talented individuals from applying, as they question the district’s commitment to their welfare and find better offers elsewhere. Alternatively, current employees who need better benefits for themselves and their family leave the district while the district digs their heels in on maintaining the status quo on our benefits.
- Labeling Employees as Temporary: The designation of “temporary” for certain positions raises eyebrows – especially when the district’s most understaffed positions, paraeducators who serve students with special needs, are posted as temp jobs. It prompts us to reflect on whether the district’s intent is to avoid providing full job security, benefits, and necessary resources to its employees. This practice potentially compromises both the quality of education for the most vulnerable students, and the well-being of those providing it.
- Dismissing the Value of ESPs: Treating ESPs as “less than” and even blatant disrespect is no way to retain employees. Our exit surveys show that lack of leadership and poor treatment ar one of the main reasons employees leave the district. Employees don’t feel valued in their paycheck, and are underappreciated. District practices seem to push perfectly good employees, desperately needed essential workers, right out the door
These practices force us to consider whether there is a genuine commitment to the students, educators, and support staff who form the backbone of our educational system. Addressing these issues requires open dialogue, collaboration, and a collective commitment to prioritize the well-being and success of everyone involved in our schools.
JESPA members, who are also community members, parents, grandparents, caregivers, and dedicated Jeffco Employees are leading the change! If you’re not a member, contribute and join today!