Parents and teachers at Townsend (Del.) Elementary School were elated to have Gov. Thomas R. Carper on hand to celebrate the school's 65th birthday May 1.
But the celebration took an unpleasant turn, according to Townsend PTA President Kim Rice, when Mr. Carper admonished some boisterous students.
Ms. Rice said the school's 430 pupils "were very excited to have such a special visitor" and were a bit wound up. But Mr. Carper's attitude was "intimidating to the students," she said, and when they did not immediately quiet down, he yelled "shut up" three times. "He told them they were the worst group of children he had ever visited," she said.
Ms. Rice added that she has since heard from dozens of angry parents and hopes to persuade the usually mild-mannered Democratic governor to return and apologize to the students.
The K-4 school's principal, Sandra Cohee, confirmed that Mr. Carper told the students to shut up, but refused to comment further on the visit.
Carper's office did not return calls for comment last week.
What's in a name? For Florida educators, apparently a lot.
A bill that would change the title of state teachers' aides from, well, "teachers' aides" to "educational paraprofessionals" passed both chambers of the legislature with flying colors last month. The bill is on its way to the desk of Democratic Gov. Lawton Chiles, who is expected to sign it into law soon.
Thomas Donaldson, the chief of staff for Sen. William H. Turner, the Miami Democrat who sponsored the bill, said the measure "is much more than a name change."
"This raises the profile and level of professionalism for so-called teachers' aides," Mr. Donaldson said.
Gary Landry, the spokesman for the FEA-United, a 75,000-member affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, added that the bill, which sets up a multitiered career ladder for paraprofessionals based on experience, should help draw more people into the classroom.
"The bottom line here is professionalism," he said. "This will bring the status of paraprofessionals up and create a career ladder for them."
--JOETTA L. SACK & KERRY A. WHITE
Vol. 17, Issue 35, Page 17