"We Can't Survive Without Them" Schools Addressing Teaching Assistant Shortage

Jason Graziadei •

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A teaching assistant shortage is the next challenge on the horizon for the Nantucket Public Schools district.

While most full-time teaching positions have been filled, the district is struggling to fill critical teaching assistant, or TA, positions. There are current 19 open TA positions across the district’s four schools, raising concerns among teachers and administrators with the academic year just around the corner.

“We can’t survive without them,” Superintendent Beth Hallett said of the vacant TA positions. “They’re instrumental for our district, and fulfill a very important role, especially in special education. It’s definitely something we’re concerned about and want to make sure the community knows we’ve made some changes so the positions may be more attractive for people who haven’t been able to do that in the past.”

Those changes Hallett referenced are a series of revisions the school district and the Nantucket Teachers’ Association union agreed to make to the current collective bargaining agreement to incentivize applications for the TA positions

The primary change was to shorten the workday for the TAs - now 7:35 a.m. to 2:35 p.m. - as well as eliminating other requirements such as “extended work day,” faculty meeting attendance, and professional development.

“The appeal is for someone who might have a child in the school system, and to have their hours line up with their child’s schedule, or someone who has another job to get to,” said Nantucket Teachers’ Association president Page Martineau said. “What we’ve tried to do is make it a job that’s appealing for someone in those very specific situations. The (union) membership voted for the changes overwhelmingly.”

The starting salary for a TA position depends on experience. For someone with no college completed, the starting salary is $25,000 per year, which goes all the way up to $39,000 for someone with a master’s degree and teaching experience. The positions come with town benefits, including health insurance.

The 19 open positions represent approximately 35 percent of the total number of TAs the district will need for the 2022-23 school year across all grade levels.

“This is our plea to the community, to anyone looking or thinking about one of these positions,” Hallett said.

“Our TAs are support staff, but they are absolutely integral to the working of our schools,” Martineau said. “They have such an important role with our students, but they don’t have to lesson plan - those responsibilities are for the teachers the TAs work with. If you’ve hesitated in the past thinking you wouldn't’ qualify, reach out to the school and find out more about what the job entails.”

To learn more about the open positions and how to apply, click here.

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