UFT paraprofessionals have challenging and rewarding jobs working as part of an educational team providing educational and support services to children.
Here are some of their rights and responsibilities paras should know about.
Paraprofessionals must not be left alone in a classroom without a teacher when the teacher is called away for a meeting or is absent for the day. Paras must be under the direct supervision of a licensed teacher in a classroom or outside it.
The only exception to the rule is the lead teacher assistant, the new career ladder position for paraprofessionals. Paras who are lead teacher assistants may fill in for a teacher during his or her absence for up to 10 days over the course of a school year. A lead teacher assistant, however, cannot be assigned to take charge of a classroom if the teacher requests or takes an extended leave.
School administrators cannot ask paraprofessionals to supervise the lunchroom. Special Circular 6R established that lunchroom supervision may not be assigned to paras. Schools have other school-based personnel, including school aides and supervising school aides, who can be assigned this responsibility.
Paraprofessionals, including one-on-one paras, are entitled to a duty-free lunch period. A child’s Individualized Education Program can mandate paraprofessional coverage at lunch for that child, but the IEP cannot, and does not, specify a specific person to perform that role. If a para is asked to be with a child during the child’s lunch, that para must still have a duty-free lunch period at some other point in the day. (If a para is unsure about the requirements on a child’s IEP, he or she should ask to see the IEP. State law requires that paraprofessionals have access to the IEPs of students in their care.)
If a supervisor asks a para to supervise the lunchroom or does not provide a duty-free lunch period for a para, the para should inform the school’s chapter leader and para representative. The chapter leader and/or para rep will speak with the administration to try to resolve the issue. If the situation is not rectified, the paraprofessional should ask the chapter leader to file a grievance on his or her behalf.
Paraprofessionals earn one sick leave day for every month in which they are in service for at least 16 calendar days. The maximum number of sick leave days earnable in a school year is 10 for September through June.
Paraprofessionals can use earned sick leave and be paid if they meet the following requirements:
- Self-treated absences. Paraprofessionals cannot use more than three consecutive self-treated sick days. The fourth consecutive day will result in an absence without pay. No more than five self-treated days can be used in a five-month period (from September through January and from February through June). The sixth day would result in an absence without pay.
- Personal business days. Annual employees are entitled to up to three of their 10 self-treated days for personal business during a given school year provided that reasonable notice is given to the principal. Those personal business days may be used to care for a sick family member. The number of personal business days that a paraprofessional uses reduces the number of self-treated days he or she has.
- Medically certified absences. Medically certified absences are absences for which the para provides a medical note. If a para is absent more than three consecutive days, he or she must provide a doctor’s note. If a paraprofessional has medically certified absences exceeding the amount of time in his or her sick bank, it will result in absences without pay.
Days off for both self-treated absences and personal business are intended to be used only for those express purposes. If a supervisor suspects that is not the case, he or she may investigate and attempt to deny payment if it is discovered that the paraprofessional was not really ill or did not have to conduct personal business that could be accomplished only during school hours. Excessive absence may be a basis for discipline.