Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Hawthorne Set to Vote on Outsourcing Aides

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

Hawthorne Set to Vote on Outsourcing Aides

Article excerpt

HAWTHORNE -- The Board of Education is about to decide whether to eliminate 21 aide positions and outsource 86 others, a move the teachers union and some parents fear could harm services for special education students.

The district says outsourcing is a budget-balancing measure forced by large increases in health insurance costs and salaries and the state's 2 percent tax-levy cap.

The alternative would have been to cut programs, said Jill Mortimer, superintendent of the Hawthorne School District.

"We're trying to put taxpayer money toward the needs of the students," Mortimer said.

The school board is expected to vote on the matter at its public meeting on Tuesday.

Opponents of the move echo arguments made in Englewood after the district in 2012 fired nearly 100 teaching assistants and secretaries and hired a private staffing firm to fill their jobs.

Parents complained that the replacements, who were paid less and were provided fewer benefits, weren't as qualified or committed as the previous employees.

Parents and the Hawthorne Teachers Association, which represents 47 of the district's 107 paraprofessionals, are contending that students have forged strong attachments with the paraprofessionals and question whether the new workers can offer the same level of attention and professionalism.

Johanna Burke, whose 11-year-old son's severe autism has required out-of-district placement, said she feared the potential effect on special education students.

"They need consistency," she said. "They need to have the same person coming in. And you start bringing in privatization and strangers coming in every day, and that's going to lead to regression for these kids."

Mortimer said, "We recognize the importance of that continuity."

She said salaries would likely be similar and the savings would come from health insurance. She also said the new jobs would have the "same standards" of qualification as the current ones.

Luis A. Delgado, the NJEA representative for Hawthorne, said the cuts come with a "real human cost. …

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