“We can’t predict the impact of these cuts, but they could lead to an increase in special education referrals, an increase in counseling referrals, less supervision on playgrounds and in the cafeteria, and it could negate the high marks we get from the state for the support we offer to students on IEPs,” she said.
“They are a tremendous asset to students and teachers on a daily basis.”
The number of IAs has skyrocketed over the years, and now sits at about 240. With this proposed cut, there would be approximately 200 left. The reason the numbers are approximate, McGrath explained, is that some are part-time while others are full-time.
According to School Committee Chairwoman Annie Gilbert, the remaining full- and part-time IAs will be redistributed throughout the system to fulfill mandated needs, such as one-on-one coverage of autistic students.
The cut will result in a “reorganization, building by building,” Gilbert said.
McGrath stressed that students who need one-on-one assistance will continue to be served, but other, less important functions may not be fulfilled as a result of the layoffs.
The 25-year-old Porter, a resident of Andover, stood shoulder-to-shoulder with two other instructional assistants at the April 16 meeting, pleading with town officials to consider the consequences of the cuts.
“We ask you tonight not to think of us as you make these difficult decisions, but instead to think of the children,” she said, as her colleague, Brenna McGoff, 22, of Hudson, N.H., wiped tears away. “They are the ones whose daily lives will be affected. The three of us will move on. We will find other jobs. But our students will be left behind.”
Selectman Brian Major, who has a son with special needs, seemed uncomfortable with the proposal.
“I see firsthand the importance of the IAs,” he said. “This is a tough reduction. I’m not sure what the answer is. ... We should have additional discussion on the head count cuts.”