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September 24, 2009     Cheney Free Press
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September 24, 2009
 

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llm|i illlllllllmglllllJlllllllllg 00DUCATIOb00 Page 2 Free Press Thursday, September 24, 2009 Race pits educatio know how vs. govel'nment exl)erience Cheney School Board Director contest for District 2 draws candidates from widely divergent backgrounds, qualifications By BECKY THOMAS Staff Reporter Both Cheney School Boardcam- paigns are based on experience. Current school board member Suzanne DoUe cites her years of ex- perience as a preschool and substitute teacher, paraprofessional and mem- ber of parental advisory boards. "I've always been involved," she said. And when she heard Sue Lienhard was retiring last spring, Dolle decided to make the leap to school board. "I thought, you know, that is something I would really, really like to do," she said. When she was the only applicant for the position, she was appointed in May. "I'm thrilled, I just love it," she said. "I found that you can't be too informed and you learn a lot and I've found that I enjoy it." DoUe said her experience allows her to see issues from the point of view of a parent, teacher and ad- ministrator. She said she hopes to continue her work on the board, and looks forward to working toward build- ing new schools to provide "a manageable size classroom and a safe environment for all our kids." The teachers and programs in the district are good, she said, but more public input is needed at school board meetings. "It's all out there," she said. "Parents and the public are always welcome to attend." Don Mitchell is challenging Dolle for the District 2 board posi- tion. Mitchell is currently finishing his eighth year on the Airway Heights City Council. .:, He sald that after he and his Wife became foster parents he wanted to slow down while staying involved so he decided to give run for the school bo "I thought it wok opportunity to mab he said. Mitchell has tw( Cheney High School his background in t tracting, real estate ernment make him a' candidate for school "With two chil up council to Ltd. ld be a great e a switch," children in and he said tcilities con- d city gov- veil-rounded )oard. dren in the district, we're invoh ed in sports, we're involved in and, so we talk to a lot of peo, pe out there," he said. I think I v got a good mix." | Mitv_heU added that he would bring "forward thiing" to the board, and it would e good for the board to bring in new people. I. i L Paraeducation a g owing, changing field Don Mitchell Mitchell said he didn't find out about the opening last spring until after Dolle was appointed. "If I would have known about Suzanne Dolle it I would have applied then," he said. "The timing was wrong." Becky Thomas can be reached at becky@cheneyfreepress.com. Teaching support staff are seen as an asset in both special needs and regular education classrooms in Medical Lake School District and across the state and nation By RYAN LANCASTER Staff Reporter Paramedics and paralegals are recognizable professions, but there's another, less renowned "para" most parents would probably rather have looking after their children: They're paraeducators, known as teacher's aids or classroom assistants until the mid- 1990s, when increasing responsibilities and qualification requirements gave rise to a name with more professional heft. Paraeducators are usually found in the classroom but they can also fill roles in education as diverse as sign language inter- preters or crossing guards. They work with kids in grades K-12 in a variety of skill levels, includ- ing regular education classes, although they typically assist students with moderate to severe disabilities. "They have quite a few re- sponsibilities but they're also highly trained," said Medical Lake preschool teacher Linda Meyer, who works with para- educator Sandra Berglund in her classroom for regular and special needs kids at Michael Anderson Elementary. "Teachers could not function without them.., it would be really nice to have more." Claudine Muelken, adminis' trative assistant to the assistant superintendent of Medical Lake schools, said there are currently 35 paraeducators in the district, a number that has risen slightly since last yea r "You're getting two paras for the price of one teacher," Muelken said. "It betters the students to have more one- on-one face time." This is particularly important in a year of widespread budget crunches. Schools can t hire more teachers but they can often bring in more educators to increase the student/teacher ratio," said Rick Chisa, communications director with Public School Employees of Washington. Chisa said Washington Slate is a leader in the use of paraeducators and that there has been a statewide increase in recent years, although ex- act numbers are hard to measure. According to Chisa there were relatively few requisites for para- educators as'ecently as 10 years ago, but the 2002 No Child Left Behind Act "changed everything." He said the position now calls for at least a two-year degree and that "many paras now have four years of college; there are even a few with medical backgrounds." While there isn't yet a college degree track for those interested in becoming paraeducators, Chisa said most colleges offer on the job training programs and a bill was recently discussed at the state level which would create a certification process. "It seems as though the natural progression will gravitate toward some sort of certification," he said. Many paraeducators are re- tirees who've decided to take on education as a second career, Gregg Bartholomew has been ......... Phta Rtan Lancast, er Paraeducator Sandra Bergtund works with preschoolers at Michael Anderson Elementary on the Flrhiid Air Force' baseJBerglund 'says she decided to take the job nine years ago after volunteering in a special needs classroom. 1951 First Street In the Banner Bank Center 509-235-2122 with the Medical Lake school district for the pas t 15 years after retiring from his job as a furniture mover. "Working with kids was just something that was cooking in the back of my mind for a lot of years," he said. Valerie Paullus retired from the Washington National Guard and has been a paraeducator at Medical Lake High School for the past four years. "I started subbing and I liked it and a position came up so I applied for full time." She said the classroom is a great work- ing environment that allows her to be closer to her son, who attends the school. "This lets me be more a part of his.life," she said. There are also a few locally illus- trious names among paraeducators both past and present, including Medical Lake Mayor John Higgins who worked at the high school for 10 years until his retirement last year. "Working with kids keeps you young," Higgins said. Kim Zappone, the local chapter president of Public School Em- ployees of Washington, said she's worked at nearly every building in the Medical Lake district over the past 13 years and stakted this year as a paraeducator and secretary at Michael Anderson Elementary. In her role as both classified employee union president and educator has shown her the impor- tance of support staff for faculty and students alike. "We back up the teachers and we have a lot of good interaction with the kids in this com- munity," she said. "I think that's a really important function." Ryan Lancaster can be reached at ryan@chenetdfreepress.com. CheneySpinal Care P.S. 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