The Butte school board voted unanimously to reduce the number of monitors by seven for the 2013-2014 academic school year at its regular meeting Monday.

The monitors include one playground monitor, two bus monitors and four classroom paraprofessionals, according to Human Resources Director Therese McClafferty.

Charles Woodgerd, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 381, asked trustees and Superintendent Judy Jonart the reason for the steep 30 percent reduction that doesn’t sit well with him.

Overall, playground monitors have been reduced from 14 to 13 and other monitors from 19 to 13.

“There have been high-needs students who have left or will be leaving the district, thus reducing the need for additional support services,” Jonart said in an email to The Montana Standard. “The staffing reflects a more efficient use of personnel and provides additional time at schools that were underserved this past year.”

Woodgerd fears potential problems, such as a less-effective aides-to-student ratio, the lack of adequate staffing in the classroom if an aide needs backup, plus other various safety and productivity issues.

Basically, since special education staffing depends upon each student’s Individual Education Plan (IEP), the staffing reduction will adequately reflect that federally mandated process, said Jonart. She added that two high-needs students have recently transferred or have had specific services altered via updated IEPs.

“Additionally, and most importantly, the staffing plan as presented to the board provides a safe learning environment for all students,” she wrote. “The plan reflects an educational setting that is designed to meet individual student needs where they can achieve to their highest potential.”

Woodgerd also expressed concern that the board may expect Comprehensive School and Community Treatment Services (CSCT) to pick up the slack for monitors who have already been notified that they’ve lost their jobs.

“It may take some positions away from our monitors,” said Woodgerd, who speculated that the district may use CSCT clinical social workers and behavior specialists as an unnecessary “stop-gap” measure in positions that demand an academically trained specialist.

“We want the program to be there because we think it’s a valuable program,” he said, “but what I’m trying to figure out is the 30-percent reduction. Nothing has changed dramatically from last year. Is it due to the budget or some other reason?”

Jonart emphasized that the CSCT program is separate from the district staffing plan and that it does not necessarily serve the same students in classrooms where monitors are assigned.

Woodgerd, 28, is a bus driver for the Bozeman School District. Organized, articulate and persistent, he has attended the Butte school board meetings for over a year. He’s passionate about representing union employees.

“I think that everyone, no matter what their job, deserves the ability to be represented,” he said. “These people deserve representation. The public needs to be made aware of the changes.”

Special Education monitors earn an hourly salary of $10.88, bus monitors and classroom monitors earn $10.73 per hour and playground monitors earn $9.81 per hour, according to J. R. Richardson, district business director.

Reporter Renata Birkenbuel may be reached via email at Renata.birkenbuel@mtstandard.com; or by phone at 496-5512.

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