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.
- 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?