By Tina Snell, Staff Writer
Twenty-two of the 60 paraprofessionals working with the Little Falls School District were recently accredited by the state of Minnesota. It was a nine-year journey, but worth it, said Cindi Trettel.
Little Falls requires its paraprofessionals to be highly qualified. That means they need at least two years of post secondary education (60 credits), pass the ParaPro assessment test, meet all the required core competencies and pass a state-approved assessment. The Little Falls paras took it a step further.
“We began this journey in 2003, when the paraprofessionals and the Minnesota School Employees Association asked the state to establish credentials for us,” said Trettel. “We were afraid at that time we were going to lose our jobs and wanted some sort of proof of our worth.”
When classes were available in 2003, the Little Falls paraprofessionals jumped right in, said Trettel. They wanted to be ready to be accredited when the time came, even though the state was not ready with the final application process.
“Mary Jo Morgan, the human resources director at that time, was proactive in getting the district ready for this,” said Trettel. “She set up the classes here in Little Falls which really broadened our knowledge about education and the students.”
The credential applications finally came through in January 2012. Fifty-four paras in Minnesota took the test and have received their credentials.
“The document each paraprofessional received shows we have the qualifications for any para job in the state,” said paraprofessional Nancy Sanoski. “And, it shows we care enough to get the education necessary to teach the students of Little Falls.”
While most of the other Little Falls paraprofessionals qualify for accreditation, Trettel said they just need to go through the application process. She also said that in Minnesota, only 54 paras have taken the test for accreditation and 22 of those are in Little Falls.
To be accredited, paraprofessionals need a minimum of two years experience, pass the ParaPro test and meet the nine core competency requirements. Those include knowledge of student characteristics, the foundations of education, understanding the evaluations of students, knowing instruction content and more.
The accreditation documents were personally handed out by Supt. Stephen Jones during the Aug. 20, 2012, School Board meeting. He also hand-wrote thank you letters to each para for going the extra mile, which made each paraprofessional in Little Falls feel it was all worth it, said Trettel.
“It speaks tremendously to the commitment and dedication the paraprofessionals of Little Falls Community Schools uphold that so many have completed the accreditation process when across the state the numbers are very limited,” said Jones. “We are very proud of our paraprofessionals and honored with the expertise, energy and encouragement they bring to the students, staff and families of Little Falls Community Schools.”