School reading clinics phased out

Posted on March 6, 2008 in Education Debates – GTA – School reading clinics phased out
Educational assistants, aquatic staff among $10 million in cuts debated by board
March 06, 2008
Kristin Rushowy, Education Reporter

Toronto trustees voted to end a cherished program that provides intensive help to 250 struggling readers each year.

The vote late last night means that reading clinics, available in 32 schools, mostly in the old City of Toronto, will phased out in the next school year.

The two-year program provides students in grades 2 to 6 with daily one-hour reading sessions and had been hailed as a “miracle worker” by trustee Irene Atkinson.

However, the move will save the board $1.5 million. Board staff estimate that in the next school year some 86 students will continue in the program with about half of the current teaching staff, or about 10 teachers. None of the other teachers will lose their jobs.

The clinics were championed by several trustees, including Sheila Cary-Meagher, who herself has a reading disability. She said her grandson has just completed the two-year clinic and is able to read.

“Reading clinics work for people like me and my family,” said an emotional Cary-Meagher.

Reading difficulties cannot be dealt with in 20 weeks, she said, referring to the less-intensive reading recovery program that is offered throughout the city.

“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” said Atkinson.

Trustees also voted to increase the number of ESL teachers in elementary schools by 87. They voted to move money from professional fees to their allowable expenses, increasing their expense budgets by $1,600 each.

Trustees debated cuts to education assistance and aquatic staff in a bid to save about $10 million.

About 50 education assistants attended the meeting after learning that board staff had recommended chopping their numbers from about 700 to as low as 477.

“We are the eyes in the back of the head for teachers,” said Mayona Farrell, an assistant at Corvette Junior Public School.

While the board has said that none of the assistants who help special-needs students would be affected, those at the meeting told reporters they mostly work with kindergarten students and that testing for special needs does not begin until at least Grade 1.

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