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UFT negotiates new lead para title

The UFT and the Department of Education have announced an agreement that creates a new position that is the beginning of a professional career ladder for the 24,000 paraprofessionals in New York City public schools. The agreement also provides additional support for paraprofessionals wishing to make the transition to teacher.

The new position, called the Lead Educational Associate, will be a true assistant to a teacher and not be solely driven by the Individualized Education Program (IEP) of a student with disabilities. Paraprofessionals who apply for and are accepted into the new role will be supporting all aspects of instruction in either a general education or special education classroom. The Lead Educational Associate may, under the direct or general supervision of the teacher, work with students individually or in small groups, either in the main classroom or a separate room.

“This new position recognizes the capabilities of paraprofessionals, gives them more responsibility and taps into their leadership potential,” said UFT President Michael Mulgrew. “It’s a way to elevate the work of our dedicated paraprofessionals and acknowledge their contributions to our students.”

Much like teacher leaders, the new leadership positions for teachers that were created in the 2014 contract, Lead Educational Associates will support their colleagues by offering professional development, visiting other classrooms and demonstrating their own classroom work for fellow paraprofessionals.

Those with the new title will receive an additional $5,000 per year above the applicable paraprofessional salary.

The DOE has also pledged to assist eligible paraprofessionals in making the transition to a teacher role through additional support for student teaching, career training, meeting certification requirements and apprenticeships. For example, the DOE will provide a limited number of paid 40-day leaves of absence for paras to complete student-teaching requirements.

“A lot of paras are doing magnificent work,” said Shelvy Young-Abrams, the chair of the UFT’s Paraprofessional Chapter. “This will create a path for those who would like to do more. Most important, it will allow paras to student teach without having the hardship of being without pay. Most can’t afford to take a leave without pay and that hinders them.”

The prerequisites for the Lead Educational Associate position are a bachelor’s degree and any other conditions set by a central UFT-DOE committee. Establishment of positions in a school will be at the discretion of the principal, who will select from a pool of eligible candidates determined by the UFT-DOE committee.

The position will be posted each spring and prospective candidates will be required to apply each year. Lead Educational Associates will be required to receive training in at least one of a number of instructional programs (such as Great Leaps or Reading Rescue) determined by the DOE in consultation with the UFT.

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