DPS eyes teaching assistant layoffs, reorganization

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DECATUR, Ill. (WAND) — Paula Busboom spends her days getting Decatur students back on the right path.

“We work with all of those students who get daily referrals for misconduct in their classrooms,” she said.

But for her and numerous other alternative placement room assistants, this school year could be their last.

“[The district is] actually closing the APR rooms, doing away with those 19 teaching assistants,” Busboom said.

An additional five assistants will lose their temporary jobs as the year draws to a close. Busboom worries those 24 assistants won’t have a job in the district next fall.

“We’re a family,” she said. “You’re taking part of our family away from us.”

The Decatur School Board voted to accept a new job description for the positions Busboom and her fellow assistants hold.

Superintendent Dr. Paul Fregeau says this will allow the district to help more kids.

“We’ll be able to serve more kids than we currently serve,” Fregeau said. “We’ll be providing support for kids K-12. Currently, it’s 5-12.”

The biggest change: a bachelor’s degree requirement that would in turn squeeze out numerous teaching assistants with decades of experience in the classroom.

“There was no collaboration with the district on this new job description,” Busboom said. “We can’t get enough people to take those jobs. I really don’t know where they’re going to get 19 people to take these jobs.”

The district says the exact language on the job description can still change.

Busboom and her fellow APR assistants will keep their jobs through the end of the school year. After that, the district says those displaced will take new TA positions based off of seniority.

But for now, Busboom says she is going to savor every day of the job she loves so much.

“It’s everything to me,” she said. “[I love] those relationships we build with those kids, that trust we build with those students.”

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