CCBOE Votes Appleton to be New Staffing Agency for Non-Tenure Teacher Aides

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Hannah Ward/CullmanSense

 

Our number one goal is to take care of these kids.”
Wendy Crider, CCBOE Board Member

CULLMAN – Cullman County School’s non-tenure teacher aides received the notification of termination of their employment on May 29, 2015. Due to budget restrictions and rising utility and health care costs the school board implemented a new staffing agency for Cullman County schools. 

The Cullman County School Board of Education voted Thursday night, June 18, at a regular Cullman County School Board meeting to contract Appleton Learning Corporation. The agency will take over the hiring and paying of non-tenure teacher aides.

Around 50 aides lost their jobs, but they each have the opportunity to get it back by applying through the agency. The non-tenured teachers will no longer qualify for tenure since they will be working for the agency, not the school system.

Dan Sheets, the Director of Communications at Cullman County Schools stated, “The reason this decision was made is due to the fact of the teacher aide situation; the district is way over staffed. What happens is you have a teacher aide who is hired, say they follow a child they're tied to, then after three years they become a tenured employee. So what that means is even if that student leaves that aid is still an employee, but what do they do now? There is not necessarily a student to be assigned to. Obviously they get put into a position somewhere, to fill some sort of a roll, but yet you can kind of see the problem of an over expanding surplus.” 

Cullman County Board of Education chose a staffing management agency as the solution to relieve this problem. Appleton Learning Corporation will be handling health care and financial benefits, saving around $375,000 a year. This saved money will be used for various school improvements.

This agency will not only cover the financial side, but it will also ensure a more thorough hiring process. “They’ll have the opportunity to enlist in the staffing agency which would require them to basically have to do the hiring process,” Sheets said. “This will help increase the likelihood of better quality teacher aides. 

In the upcoming school year, every need for a teacher aide will be met. This will not affect students in need of a teacher aide in any way. 

Lisa Faust from the Alabama Education Association stated, 
“Privatization is not good for Cullman County. Our aides, the ones who provide services to our most precious commodity, will be forced into unemployment if they don’t go with the private company. Even if they do go with the private company, they will have less money and have fewer benefits. I do not want Cullman County to go with private companies to hire their aides and other personnel. I do not feel it is in the best interest of students and Cullman county employees and the community. The school loses all control when a private company comes in.”

Sheets stated, “Really it’s again trying to do what’s best for the kids; the students ultimately are the objective. So if we can save money without jeopardizing the student’s experiences and be able to provide them with smart boards or a sort of learning device. Even new windows in the classroom is definitely a positive for them.”

Janna Absher, a Hanceville teacher for 17 years and the Cullman County Education Association president, stated, “I am very disappointed the vote did not go in the favor of supporting our education family.”

Wendy Crider Cullman County Board of Education, stated, “Our number one goal is to take care of these kids. We did a lot of research for this company and we’re gonna work very closely to them. I’ve been a previous teacher myself and I had a special needs child in my class for two years, and she changed my life. So I’m very passionate about taking care of these kids. If it’s a previous aide or a new aide that’s not doing their job the principle can call Appleton and tell them, and they’ll have a replacement in three days. Where a lot of times you have trouble with an aide that is tenured it takes a lot longer to get resolved. I thought this was something worth trying for the better.”

Based in Huntsville, Ala., the ten-year-old company works with districts across the state of Alabama. 

Glenn Clayton, President of Appleton, stated, “What we do is work exclusively with K through 12 public schools to help them in for exactly the situation Cullman is in where budgets are being cut and rather than eliminating personnel or lay people off this is a way they keep everybody fully employed and still serving the need of their children. We also as an education company provide more in-depth training that most of these staff members have currently been able to access. So this way they can get better training and be better equipped to do their job. We do all of our training certified through the Glenwood Institutes in line with all national and state standards.”

No school district has ever fired the company, even though every school can within the first 90 days.