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Fairfax ESPs: A Vital Part of the Team

Throughout a day-long Education Support Professional (ESP) workshop held Monday by the Fairfax Education Association, one point was underscored again and again. ESPs serve a vital role in public education, deserving of respect, job rights, and fair pay and benefits.

That fact was reinforced throughout sessions on managing differences, member rights, workplace issues, and job strategies, as well as the keynote address by National Education Association ESP of the Year Laura Vernon.

"Every adult in the school community is a teacher of every child in it," Leonard Bumbaca, FEA president, told about 60 ESPs from Fairfax and other jurisdictions. "You are professionals, and when a child needs a guiding hand, you provide it."

Vernon received a warm reception when she said, in a reference to Super Bowl fever, that, "ESPs are the quarterbacks… Without you, nothing happens."

With localities facing tough fiscal times, though, it's more important than ever for ESPs to stand up and be counted, several participants noted. Fairfax is facing budget cuts of millions of dollars, and several ESPs said they were worried about job losses or pay stagnation.

"We don't want this to come to pass, but we've got to be more visible and to advocate for the work we do," said Mary Anderson, chair of the FEA ESP Council. "Then they can't sweep us under the rug. If we don't stand up now, there is not a job that is safe."

At a session on workplace issues, Christal Tanks, a support professional at Parklawn Elementary, told participants to imagine a public school system without support professionals. "There's no one driving the buses to pick up your children, no secretary in the office to take the call, no custodian to unlock the building, no one to clean up at the end of the day after everyone has gone home. Good luck!

"You need to be a cheerleader for your job and let the public know what you do and how it affects children," Tanks added.

Photos: Taken at Fairfax ESP Conference, 1-26-09. For more photos from the Fairfax ESP conference, click here or go to



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