COLUMBIA — The Columbia School Board passed a pay increase for paraprofessionals in the district at its meeting Monday evening.
With two weeks until school starts, the district has more than 50 open paraprofessional positions, which is one-third of the total positions, according to the school board agenda.
According to Missouri Department of Elementary & Secondary Education Special Education coordinator Tim Roling, paraprofessionals are important for special education programs and having a shortage of them can be challenging to other school faculty.
"It certainly creates more work for every other adult in the building and they are going to do their best to help meet the needs of all the students," said Roling. "Paraprofessionals are just so helpful and well-rounded individuals that do a number of different things including reinforcing what the teachers have already taught or going out into the regular classrooms and help regular teachers. They can set up accommodations for students that struggle in class."
The salary change will add $1.20 on the base of the schedule. The change also adds more columns for levels of education. The proposed increase in the salary schedule will cost $385,000 and about $445,000 with benefit costs.
"Paraprofessionals are assigned to assist special needs students in the classroom based on their individual education plans," said Michelle Baumstark, spokesperson for the district.
A paraprofessional with 60 credit hours serving a student with basic needs would start at $14.50/hour under the proposed salary schedule.
Baumstark also said the district's contractors for substitute staffing and bus drivers are also looking for employees.