Jennifer Lancaster, president of the Providence Spring Elementary PTA, asked me to pass along word that parents there are circulating a petition urging Gov. Pat McCrory and state legislators not to cut teacher assistants in the 2013-14 budget.
"As parents, we know the value of teaching assistants," the petition says. "Teacher assistants are NOT clerical positions. Many of us volunteer in the classroom, and we know these men and women are on the front lines working side-by-side with our teachers to provide academic support."
"In addition, last year the legislature imposed a requirement that starting next year 3rd graders not be promoted unless they are reading at grade level and this session is proposing to lift restrictions on class size in K-3. Without teaching assistants, this will create a disastrous learning environment."
"Last, and certainly not least, is safety. Recent events have shown that one of the best ways to protect our students is to have well-informed, vigilant adults on site. Reducing the number of teaching assistants reduces the number of people watching our children and is not consistent with a goal of keeping our schools safe."
Superintendent Heath Morrison also sounded a "save our assistants" theme at a news conference at Dilworth Elementary this week. After talking about efforts to make sure young students become "high-quality vivacious readers," he introduced first-grade teacher Kerry Vreeland and assistant Nancy Christopher to talk about their teamwork.
"I work with small groups every day," helping students with vocabulary, writing and reading, Christopher said.
Starting in 2014, third-graders who fail state reading exams can be held back until they demonstrate grade-level skills, under an education bill passed last year. Morrison and Deputy Superintendent Ann Clark say that makes the work of assistants more important than ever.