HAWTHORNE - A North Jersey school district is looking to trim costs by outsourcing more than 100 teacher's aides, but parents think instruction will suffer.
Two of Nicole Ciuba's kids received help from classroom aides while at Hawthorne schools. "The aide can be more hands-on with the child," she says. "Extra help, like going over a question, things like that. They're in the classroom to assist with the child."
Ciuba is one of many opponents of a plan to eliminate 21 positions completely and replace 86 others with outside contractors.
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"Our budgets have been cut," says Ciuba. "Our curriculum has been cut. Our sports have been cut. We need hands-on. And if we lose this now, we're losing big."
The outsourcing plan would plug a $400,000 budget hole. Hawthorne Superintendent Jill Mortimer says rising health care and salary expenses are to blame. She says the district would use the same hiring criteria for the outsourced aides as it now does for its staff.
Parents worry about losing qualified aides children already know and trust. "When a child establishes a relationship with a teacher or someone, it helps them in more ways than just learning," says another parent, Gary Durr. "When you're bringing in an outside person or company, where are these people from?"
Mortimer says if the district does not save money by outsourcing, it will have to cut programs, like full-day kindergarten.
The Hawthorne school board will vote on the outsourcing plan Tuesday. If approved, contracts will go out to bid by the end of the month.