Students come from all over Wayne County to the Burger Baylor School for Students with Autism.
One staff member is blowing the whistle on a big problem. She says in numerous classes these special needs students don’t even have teachers.
“You might have a teachers aide. You have a parapro like myself and then they call in substitute teachers, who have no experience with students with autism, and we try to get them to do stuff,” said Audrey Ewing, a Paraprofessional at the school.
She says staff members have been told not to speak to parents about this and that made her feel uncomfortable. She feels an obligation to be the voice of the kids.
“Even if I lose my job over this, I love these students,” said Ewing.
She says there is no curriculum to follow in classes without teachers.
She says students aren’t getting what they are entitled to under the law.
She has witnessed an increase in student meltdowns, because students with autism function best when there is consistency and structure that a teacher can provide.
“Are there challenges daily with staffing? Yes,” said Derek Fisher, Superintendent of Garden City Public Schools. “We are dealing with a major teaching shortage across the state.”
Fisher says there is a severe shortage of teachers certified to teach kids with autism. He says the district is desperately looking.
“It comes down to inadequate funding,” said Fisher.
He says the district simply can’t offer enough pay to get teachers to take open jobs. He has seen many move out of state or into the private sector for financial reasons.
This school serves kids from all over Wayne County. He is calling on Wayne County residents to vote for the regional educational enhancement millage to increase funding by about $385 per student in their schools.
“What that will do is have a trickle down effect into the classroom,” said Fisher.