I have observed over 12 years of experience as an assistant teacher including five as a substitute,. The titles I have held in Seattle Public Schools are Special Education Assistant and Instructional Assistant. In Ithaca New York I also worked as a substitute teacher in the 1990's as well.
I have determined that the more profound a student’s disability, the more likely they will be working with a substitute instead of a certified teacher or permanent staff.
For a year and a half I worked in a classroom with a student who can’t walk more than a few feet without a walker. They were served by multiple substitutes for over a year. This student has been pushed to the floor by another student, In that situation I caught her quick enough to keep her head from hitting the floor.
The substitutes who worked with this student for over a year and a half did not have a key to the building even though the student’s class is in a portable and the main building door is sometimes locked. This student's needs were under-served because of the Seattle Public School District's policy of treating substitutes, especially special education assistants, as less valuable employees.
During the 2015 school year I watched a series of subs work with two students with profound needs. Both students were transferred to Louisa Boren STEM from different schools with one-on-ones assigned to them. At the start of the next school year each of the permanent assistants assigned to work as their one-on-ones were no longer working in that classroom because they had transferred to other jobs.
For about half the school year the special education department refused to hire replacements and insisted on overriding the IEP's of both students, because they thought there was too much staff in the room. Both of these students needed constant adult supervision and one required regular hygienic care. For half the year the staff assigned to them were substitutes who would work a few days and quit because these students demanded so much of their energy and time. A meeting finally happened where the two positions were merged into one 1 on 1 job.
You would hope that people with the most profound disabilities would get the the most professional help in school, in reality, they get short term substitutes. They get short term substitutes not because someone is home sick, but because the Seattle Public School District Special Education Department and the State of Washington won't hire a permanent staff person for the most profoundly impacted students. I want a good substitute who has experience when a position can't be filled. But in reality these students need a trained employee working in my place, not a sub.
There are retired teachers and therapists willing to work as subs for Special Education Assistants and teachers. But Seattle Public Schools limits how many days retirees are allowed to work. So many days, classes are staffed with new substitutes instead of our experienced retiree subs. This means that classroom staff are required to train the sub on the fly. This takes time and therefore costs money. I know we need to be cost efficient, and so I am pointing out that an experienced sub is more cost efficient because they don't need to be shown how to do the job at the same time they are doing the job.
Sometimes this training is from an assistant teacher, not a certified teacher. If someone is subbing in the certified teacher role. This means that our assistants are doing a teachers job form an assistants pay. So the situation is also economically unjust.
The state does not agree with me that substitutes are valuable enough to be trained, so they have this policy.
“Substitute paraeducators are not required to meet the requirements of the Paraeducator Certificate Program.”
https://eln.seattleschools.org/paracertandfcsintro/#/lessons/QdKa1uRmw26LfQHtEsREdcuGHPqYBH28 FAQ Quoted 12/22/2020.
This means that our students are served by substitutes who are not even trained in the Paraeducator Certificate Program. This means that we are sending inexperienced or less experienced and undertrained assistants to work with our most vulnerable students when there is a need for a substitute.
Thank you very much
Greg Spence Wolf
Roxhill Elementary - Special Educaton Assistant
7217 Yakima Ave
Tacoma, WA 98408