Over the course of the school year, I have a practice of visiting classrooms frequently to talk with staff and students. While these conversations are brief, they do allow me to stay connected to learning happening in our schools and to hear directly from our teachers and students about what they are working on.
Much of the attention in our schools goes to our certified classroom teachers, and rightfully so. Attention also goes frequently to our building principals, who serve in prominent leadership roles for their schools and community. Teachers and building administrators are most centrally involved in the core purpose of our schools: learning. But these are not the only people who make our schools successful.
One often overlooked group is our support professionals. These individuals work in a variety of roles including instructional supports (paraprofessionals), school and district office staff, food service, transportation, building maintenance and custodial, and school safety. All told, Jeffco employs over 4,000 people in support staff positions encompassing over 150 job titles.
In addition to visiting classrooms, I also spend a few days each year visiting with our support professionals. This can range from short visits and conversations about how things are going and what they are working on or concerned about to sort of “undercover boss” experiences where I spend a day working alongside our support professionals doing their jobs.
This week, I had the opportunity to visit Fletcher Miller School in Lakewood. For those who may not know about Fletcher Miller, the school serves around 95 Jeffco students who have significant disabilities. Many of them have mobility issues and are confined to wheelchairs. These students may also have needs associated with feeding or hygiene, and some require intensive therapies including physical, occupational, social/emotional, medical, and speech/language.
In addition to committed teaching staff and wonderful school administrators, what makes Fletcher Miller a truly amazing place are the support professionals working there in a variety of roles. I saw these individuals show incredible professionalism, expertise, compassion, and genuine love for their students. I was also struck by the deep respect everyone at the school held for the students and families. Honor for the dignity of the students as human beings was present everywhere.
At all of our schools and throughout the district, we have committed support professionals working to make our schools great places for kids. I encourage you to take a moment to thank the support professionals working with or supporting your school. We are incredibly fortunate to have these people working with and on behalf of our students