Philadelphia's noontime aides face elimination

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

​One of the more stressful jobs I've had over my two decades of teaching middle school was running a lunch room with upwards of 300 rambunctious adolescents. They were determined to make the most of the one time during the school day that they were out of the classroom.

It was a challenge to keep peace and good order. I had to make sure students got their food, could visit the bathroom, and didn’t escape into the halls or the uninhabited regions of our old building. I depended on a group of noontime aides (who now call themselves student safety staff) to help police the perimeters, identify problems, and mediate conflicts.

Largely invisible to the public, these workers help create a climate in which students feel supported but also accountable. That may change next fall as the District faces a perfect storm of circumstances that threaten to further destabilize the already fragile school-support systems that keep children safe.

The 1,231 student safety staff members are an endangered species who face the prospect of elimination under the budget just enacted last week by the School Reform Commission. The loss of this staff, along with counselors and others who contribute to making schools safe, has to be a major concern. It comes at a time when many schools are facing the added challenge of a new wave of enrollment from closing schools.

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