LETTER: Treat Bethlehem’s paraprofessionals fairly

Editor, The Spotlight:

The holiday season is a time for giving and receiving and for offering thanks. In addition to the gifts we exchange, the holidays remind all of us to stop, reflect and be grateful for the love of our friends and families, our health, the food on our plates and our freedom.

The Bethlehem Central United Employees Association (BCUEA) is comprised of the paraprofessionals working for the Bethlehem Central School District and would like to offer residents of our community our best wishes for a holiday season full of joy and happiness. At the same time, we also ask the community and Board of Education to recognize the work we do on behalf of Bethlehem’s fine educational system.

Members of the BCUEA are the bus drivers and attendants who safely deliver students to and from school; the cafeteria workers who ensure the community’s children eat healthy and nutritious meals; school monitors who watch over the cafeterias, playgrounds and hallways; the custodians and maintenance who keep the buildings safe and clean; the teachers’ aides who support student learning; the secretary and clerical staff who keep the offices running smoothly and the technology services who keep the world at the students’ fingertips as well as others who perform miracles – large and small – each day with this community’s children. Paraprofessionals in Bethlehem work collaboratively to support the district’s caring and dedicated teaching staff and hard-working administrators, all of us striving together to maintain our reputation as one of the highest-achieving in New York state.

We are your neighbors, friends and fellow parishioners. Nearly two-thirds of us live in Bethlehem; many of us for 20 years or more. We are active in Bethlehem soccer, the sports booster club, the Boys and Girl Scouts and local houses of worship. We are volunteer firefighters, members of the VFW and American Legion, and regularly attend PTA meetings.

The school district’s paraprofessionals contribute to the vitality and the economic well-being of this community. Unfortunately, the paraprofessionals who help form the backbone of our school district have been working under the terms of a collective bargaining agreement that expired last June. As we all celebrate the holiday season, is it too much to ask the community – and our board of education – to recognize the work we do and the value we provide to the school district with a fair contract offer?

Charlie Jones

School bus driver, Bethlehem School District

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