MARQUETTE, Mich. (WZMQ) – Paraprofessionals within the Marquette Area Public School district feel as if they are not being fairly compensated. One former paraprofessional in Marquette says the district hires at $11.50 an hour.
“It is not a liveable wage,” said Emily Richards, a former MAPS employee.
A job posting on Gwinn area community schools facebook page shows that paraprofessionals just 20 minutes down the road from marquette make almost two dollars more an hour.
“I just think that it’s not a livable wage and we’re seeing a lot of staff turnover due to this labor intensive, high intense job para pros provide,” remarked Shilpa Jhobalia, a parent of a student who relies on the help of paraprofessionals.
The high intensity of the job includes working directly with students, oftentimes with mental and physical disabilities. Emily Richards was a paraprofessional in the district, she addressed the board of education at their meeting Monday night about what she dealt with on a daily basis.
“These challenging behaviors included being hit, kicked, scratched, and pinched by the students every single day,” Richards said.
Parents of students in the district who are aided by the work of paraprofessionals made their voices heard tonight by presenting to the school board during the public comment section of the meeting.
The Marquette Area Public Schools superintendent Zach Sedgwick says employees at the district work under a collective bargaining agreement, which prevents an immediate change in salary.
“There’s a three year agreement, and that’s why we wanted to make sure we showed appreciation in every way possible without infringing upon that agreement,” Sedgwick answered when asked about the concerns raised during the meeting.
Sedgwick presented a teacher appreciation package tonight which would give staff members hired between now and early June a $500 sign on bonus.
“Education is a tough business, especially with the lingering effects of covid, we really value our employees. We just wanna express our gratitude for the people that do it everyday,” Sedgwick said.
Some who were at the meeting felt as if the incentives offered in the package are not enough.
Jhobalia said the package was a good start, but also added, “I do think it’s a band aid solution and we can do a lot more.”
The concerns over paraprofessional staff were raised during the public comment section of the board of education meeting. So no decisions relating to compensation were made.
The board did approve the teacher appreciation package, which will go into effect later this week.