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Hilltop teacher asks for budget considerations for teachers aides

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AYER – Page Hilltop Elementary School teacher Pat Lynch made a plea at the Dec. 2 School Committee meeting to increase the school budget line item for paraprofessionals. As plans move forward on next year’s budget, she said the crucial role of classroom aides, especially at the elementary- school level, should be included in the big picture.

Lynch praised the work administrators have done to improve the district, but she noted that changes they’ve initiated put “a more challenging burden” on classroom teachers, such as new instruction models and reintegration of some special education students who were previously educated in out-of-district placements.

With more students in the classroom and a varied curriculum, a tough job has become tougher, she said, but things would be better with more paraprofessionals on board.

For example, with an aide in her classroom twice a week, she can offer four hours of small group instruction, which can make a big difference for students struggling to keep up. That added focus “can help a child succeed,” she said. But it’s only doable with paraprofessional support and she fears there may not be enough to go around next year.

Interim Superintendent George Frost thanked Lynch for her input, calling the longtime teacher a “voice of reason” that he listens to. “I appreciate your comments and I hear you,” he said, although it may not show in the budget sheets handed out that night.