Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Parent Educators' NEA Bid Prompts Board to Balk

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Parent Educators' NEA Bid Prompts Board to Balk

Article excerpt

Fort Zumwalt parent educators in the Early Childhood Program want to affiliate with the district's chapter of the National Education Association, and they want the School Board's approval quickly.

But board members tabled the issue, saying they could not immediately recognize the affiliation. Board President Jayne Voss went a step further and told the parent educators to go through the formal voting process, which could take up to three months.

Voss said she was concerned about the reaction of teachers if the parent educators group joined the local association. Only four of 14 educators hold teaching degrees, although many hold other degrees. Parent educators get certified by the state after completing a training program.

Educators and teachers would have separate needs, Voss said.

"You need input from the teaching staff before you come to the board," Voss said. "Don't put us in this position. I don't want to be responsible for a decision that could impact 700 teachers down the road."

The educators and the president of Fort Zumwalt's National Education Association chapter made their request at a board meeting Wednesday. Nancy Bergfeld, president of the teacher's association, said the executive committee supported the request.

"These people are teachers," Bergfeld said. "They are the first contact many of our parents have with the district."

Parent educators are a key part of the district's Early Childhood Education Program. The program serves children from birth to three years. Educators make home visits, discuss developmental ideas with parents and observe children to detect developmental delays such as speech or motor skills concerns. Educators help make referrals for children who may need intervention programs before kindergarten.

Tom Reel, a director with the National Education Association, said Voss and other board members concerned about the structure of the affiliation were confusing the request. The affiliation means that the Education Association would represent parent educators in negotiations, he said. Affiliation does not mean the educators would abide by the same work condition rules or receive the same pay scale as teachers, he said.

Because all 14 of the educators requested affiliation, the group sought board recognition, Reel said. The formal process, which has been started, involves petitioning the State Board of Mediation. …

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