Kayla Dalton’s short career as a substitute special needs teacher at Portland Public Schools just came to an abrupt end.
She told News 8’s Mario Boone she was yanked from the classroom after penning a controversial letter to the editor of the River East News Bulletin. Her editorial blasted Portland’s approach to special education.
“The day that the letter was published I received a call from my boss and she told me that she was removing me from all future assignments because they felt uncomfortable with me being in the classroom,” Dalton said.
Her letter also accused Portland school leaders of systematically ignoring special needs students. “I felt that they weren’t getting the proper attention that they needed to get. It was an understaffed room and that’s why they had to bring in the substitutes,” she explained. “Anytime anyone brought up a concern or a way that something could be done better to benefit the students, there was some excuse as to why it wouldn’t be able to be done,” Dalton told us.
Not so said Dr. Philip O’reilly, Portland schools superintendent. O’Reilly declined to be interviewed on camera. He says no one, including Dalton, ever raised concerns like those published in her letter.
O’Reilly also made it clear Dalton was never a school district employee. Rather, she worked for private contractor ESS Absence Management. A message left with ESS wasn’t returned.
O’reilly strongly defended his school district’s handling of special needs students with stats showing the district employs 16 special education teachers, 26 paraprofessionals, which is increasing to 32 paraprofessionals next year and five social workers.
O’Reilly said he even met with Dalton following the letter being published to hear her concerns.
“But, it was very clear that it was just performative,” she said. Dalton told us she enjoys helping students and said she’s not ready to give up on the profession.
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