Today we celebrate Education Support Professionals Day.
ESPs hold a special place in the hearts of everyone in our school communities. If you ask any student about their day, they will likely have a story to share about the bus driver who gets them to and from school safely, the secretary who greets them every morning with a smile, the cafeteria worker who feeds them healthy meals at lunch, or the paraeducator who provides them with the space to learn and grow every day. These ESPs, and many more, work alongside other caring adults to help our students get what they need to succeed.
ESP Day has traditionally been a day of recognition and celebration. Today, while we take time to recognize the awesome job our ESPs do every day, we can’t ignore the many challenges they face.
This year, many school districts have fewer ESPs on staff than they did last year. These shortages are causing some student’s Individual Education Plans, IEPs, to be violated as one-on-one coverage is no longer possible. ESPs in New Hampshire continue to be grossly underpaid. In some towns, ESPs are giving their entire paychecks plus $2,000 a year back to their districts to pay for their health insurance coverage. The vital job they do is often paid less than $15 per hour.
So, this ESP Day, we’re coming together to share our stories and celebrate the amazing people who make our schools complete. We’re also asking for stories of the challenges our ESPs face and what can be done to support these vital members of our school staff. Our goal is to make sure New Hampshire is aware of the awesome contributions ESPs make despite the mounting challenges they face.
Today, we want to congratulate this year’s Jo Campbell ESP Award winner Brenda Walker of the Milford Education Support Staff Association (MESSA). As the winner, Brenda will also become NEA-NH’s nominee for the NEA ESP of the Year award. Brenda has the patience of a saint and builds amazing relationships with her students. She has opened the eyes of her school board and administration by speaking out at board meetings regarding the roles of ESPs, making sure the board understands the value that ESPs bring to our schools. Brenda never stops advocating for and taking care of her students, MESSA members, or family and friends, and with this award is being recognized for all her hard work. Congratulations Brenda!
Today, reach out and thank all the ESPs in your life and let them know you appreciate their efforts and many accomplishments. Then go online and leave your comments on our survey that asks how ESPs have impacted your school community, what challenges ESPs are facing amid staffing shortages, and what supports ESPs need to ensure better working conditions.
Please join me in recognizing and appreciating all the ways ESPs have made a personal impact on the lives of students, teachers, school leaders, parents, and more. Thank you for your dedication, perseverance, and commitment. You bring life and joy to our schools and you are appreciated beyond measure.
NEA-New Hampshire President