Parents, staff speak in support of paraeducators during Oct.23 ESD board meeting

Paraeducators at the Oct. 23 Edmonds School Board meeting hold signs demanding livable wages.

Article has been updated with correct title of Ede Patterson

The Edmonds School Board meeting was overflowing Oct. 23 with educators, parents and students speaking in support of better wages for the school district’s paraeducators.

“How can I face my staff knowing I make so much more money than them,” Cedar Way teacher Ede Patterson asked the school board during the meeting’s public comment period.

Edmonds School District paraeducators received a pay increase at the end of last year and have received a pay raise at the beginning of each school year for the last seven years. The union representing paraeducators rejected an offer presented by the school district’s bargaining team in August.

Supporters speaking at the board meeting included parents of students benefiting from the work of paraeducators, who assist  teachers with students requiring more hands-on help in the classroom.

Marisa Cortez, seated at left, describes how paraeducators have benefited her daughter, Michelle (center), an 11th grader at Edmonds-Woodway High School. Standing at right are Cortez’s son and husband.

Marisa Cortez spoke about the progress of her daughter, Michelle, an 11th grader at Edmonds-Woodway High School, who has made great strides in her education with the help of paraeducators.

“It’s the single details,” Cortez said. “The small things that are huge for the family.”

Paraeducators, who provide specialized learning for students with behavioral or learning disabilities, are often met with challenges, such as administering anti-seizure medications or supplemental nutrients via a feeding tube. The job comes with its share of risks as well.

Wildad Gaddah speaks to the school board about her experiences as a paraeducator.

“I was injured during work. I am not looking for sympathy, I just want to tell my story,” said Widad Gaddah, a paraeducator at Cedar Way Elementary School who injured in the classroom. “Invest in us.”

Hoping to reach a mutually-beneficial agreement, Superintendent Kris McDuffy said the school board is prepared to go back to the negotiation table.

“We’re going to do everything that we can,” she said. “So please know that we highly value all of the contributions you make to our schools and to the children and families of this community every hour of every day.”

Also at the meeting, Executive Director of Business and Operations Stewart Myhre presented an update on the new levy collection and certification. In the past, voters approved the levy amount in February and the levy lid — the actual amount the district can collect — was 28 percent of the prior fiscal year’s state and federal revenue. Now, the levy lid is $1.50 per $1,000 assessed valuation or $2,500 per annual average full-time equivalent, whichever is lower. The Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction will calculate the levy lid based on the preliminary assessed valuation from the Department of Revenue and the annual average full-time equivalent number of students for the prior year.

Myhre said because the district currently only has a preliminary student-enrollment number for the 2018-19 calendar year, the assessed valuation is subject to change.

“We want to have the most flexibility to collect the greatest amount that we legally can,” he said. “We’re going to tell the county we want to levy the maximum amount.”

— Story and photos by Cody Sexton

2 Replies to “Parents, staff speak in support of paraeducators during Oct.23 ESD board meeting”

  1. Before we fund added money for paraeducators, we need to figure out how we plan to fill the revenue void in the School funding to pay for the recent teacher raises. School funding is still filed with wild cards! When the state created the new funding model it called for increased state taxes and lower local taxes. There was however a 1 year revenue surplus. The windfall for Edmonds is between $15-20M and it was used to fund the teacher raises. If you look at the cost projections for yr 2 and 3 of the contract we have a shortfall of about $17m for each of those years. The two primary ways to cover the shortfall is for the state to increase funding from somewhere or grant the local districts the ability to collect more taxes. The primary discussion for added state funding is for special ed not teacher salaries. The easy way out for the state would be to change the local funding lids and allow more local money for education.

    In the current model we will be funding local education with a tax that collects about $2500 per student to go along with the $12,000 per student supplied by the state. The simple answer would be to change the local funding rules and add $1500 per student to fill the $17m shortfall.

    The rule change would allow the school board to raise the taxes without a new vote of the people. depending on how the rule may be changed there may be some surplus revenue to fund paraeducator raises.


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