Crosswalks and Classified Staff Members

Jen Hudson Current Affairs

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The black SUV had been nearly plastered to my back bumper for the past half mile. It took the first opportunity it could to pass me going much too quickly on our quasi-residential street. Even my son, Ollie, remarked, “Too fast, Mommy. Car needs to be safe.”

Ollie knew it, I knew it: There was a four-way stop coming up, and, at this time of the morning, there were elementary-aged school children everywhere. Far enough from the school to not be a true ‘school zone’, but close enough that dozens of students with bikes, scooters, skateboards, and on foot waited expectantly on corners hoping that the cars see their 4-foot frames.

The black SUV almost didn’t see the student in a red jacket take his first step into the crosswalk. Brakes screeched. The kid sauntered across the street unhurt and continued on his route to school. The black SUV zoomed off. Ollie repeated himself again, “Too fast Mommy. Car needs to be safe.”

At the start of the year, there was a crossing guard at this intersection. There hasn’t been one there in months. The student in the red jacket attends a school with open duty aide, campus assistant, and paraprofessional positions.

Much is made of the teacher vacancies in Arizona. In August, 1 in 5 teaching positions remained vacant, compared to 1 in 4 in 2018 (AZCapitol Times). Some districts are signing contracts for 2020-2021 already (ABC15). Half of teachers do not meet the state’s certification standards (Cronkite News). Currently, in my district, 9% of our posted job openings are for that of a certified teacher. 

But there is another shortage that doesn’t get the press or attention it deserves: the shortage of classified staff. Every adult on campus contributes to the learning environment of a school and the ability for children to feel loved and safe. There’s a saying in the education world- we can’t do ‘the Blooms’ if ‘the Maslows’ aren’t taken care of. This is a big deal, as 51% of the jobs posted in my district have a direct connection to some of the basic Maslow’s needs.

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  • 12% of posted vacancies are in the fields of nutrition and wellness, maintenance, and transportation: adults who help to feed our students, keep a roof over their heads (and air conditioning on), and drive them to school, providing for their physiological and safety needs
  • 16% of posted vacancies are for duty aides and security guards: adults to make sure our students are safe from the world around them, and from speeding black SUVs in crosswalks 
  • 23% of posted vacancies are for paraeducators: adults who allow our special education students to thrive in a least restrictive environment where they can feel a sense of belonging and grow.

Do we have difficulty filling teaching positions? Without a doubt. But so many positions in our schools that help keep our students fed, safe, and loved have similar difficulty in filling their positions, too. As decisions start to be made about budgets for the 2020-2021 school year, it is crucial that stakeholders keep Ollie’s words in mind and not move “too fast” so we can make sure our students are safe. What has your school or district done in order to recruit and retain classified staff members?



I always knew I was going to be a teacher; from assigning neighborhood kids homework during the summer to reading with a flashlight under the covers, school and learning have always been something I have loved. Phoenix born and raised, I attended Northern Arizona University and received my undergraduate degree in English Education. While at NAU, I received the Golden Axe Award and was lucky enough to be the President of Kappa Delta Pi, the International Honor Society in Education. After college, I spent my time in the classroom teaching 7th and 8th grade English Language Arts. I wanted to push my instruction and my students’ learning, so I decided to pursue a Masters in Curriculum and Instruction from Arizona State University, which was completed in 2010. This desire to do more for my students continued through 2013 when I was named Arizona English Teachers’ Association’s Teacher of Excellence and received my National Board Certification in English Language Arts/Early Adolescence. In 2017, I earned Master Teacher recognition. This will be my second year as a Mentor Teacher for first-year middle and high school teachers in my district and I am looking forward to continuing to learn and grow with my new teachers. On a personal level, I still love to read (though the flashlight has been replaced with a Kindle). Most of my time is spent with my husband, Chris, our toddler, Oliver, our newborn, Carter, and our pitbull-dachshund mix, Kipton. I love all things Sun Devil football and am known to binge-watch 90s and early 2000 sitcoms much too often.

Comments 11

  1. Amethyst Hinton Sainz

    Great blog. I agree that people outside of the schools don’t see this shortage… and think about all the positions that either a) are no longer open at all because they have been cut and b) are open but will not be filled because of hiring freezes or putting off hiring to save money. Our entire district had to re-arrange it’s daily schedule to accommodate a bus driver shortage. These folks are essential.

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      Jen Hudson

      Oh man! Rearranging daily schedules for an entire district must have been a significant undertaking that had DIRECT impact on students and families. Have you see the modification be successful for schools? For students?

  2. Melissa Girmscheid

    Thank you for bringing forth this issue. Our district has a constant churn of wonderful people, which is so sad because our kids don’t have the time to make connections with these adults before they’re gone. We can’t serve our kids’ needs without these essential personnel.

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  3. Jess Ledbetter

    So very true. I think that school culture is very important to recruit and retain classified staff. We must treat individuals as unique, talented human beings with valuable ideas. We must create space for them to be professional (e.g. designated computers with connected printers). We must ensure that staff get to know their names and how they support the school. Most importantly, we need to greet them warmly when we pass and hold students accountable for treating them with respect. I wish there were more discussion about this in addition to the “teacher shortage.” I also wish there were more discussion about the sub shortage. There are so many difficult challenges in schools today, but staffing has one of the biggest impacts on student learning and staff retention.

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      Jen Hudson

      I love how you gave concrete ways that schools can create welcoming environments for our certified staff members. Thank you for bringing up the sub shortage too! I think it is crucial for the public at large to understand the impact EVERY adult on campus has.

  4. Randi Fielding

    This is such an important reminder about the value of classified staff. Many of these folks go underappreciated, but they provide essential needs for our kids. I love the connection you make about classified staff often providing for students’ basic needs.

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  5. Beth Maloney

    Jen, this is such an important issue to bring up for three reasons. First, many people do not fully understand or acknowledge how essential our certified support staff are. Second, the crisis widely goes unreported and our students suffer the consequences. Third, Ollie is exactly correct. We need to slow down. I recently lost a former student and two high schoolers in the valley were killed by vehicles near their schools this week alone. Thank you for shedding light on such an important topic.

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      Jen Hudson

      Beth, thanks for weighing in. I feel like because the crisis is unreported, the public doesn’t understand how important our certified support staff is. We all pour our hearts into our students and I’m sure yours is breaking–Sending you a virtual hug.

  6. Jaime Festa-Daigle

    This is an excellent blog. The hardest job to fill in my district, even more so than any teacher, is a bus driver. Finding, training, and retaining quality classified staff to not only support students but to also support the district so students are served is imperative. In a small community like mine, our staff makes up a pretty large chunk of the work force and have a huge impact on the local economy. Working to support all staff across a district should be the norm.

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