Who’s Who in Your Child’s School

Keeping track of the changing staff at your child’s school and understanding whom to contact with questions or a specific problem can be a challenge. What follows is a general guide to who does what in your child’s school:

General Terms 

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• Direct academic service providers include classroom teachers, librarians, reading specialists, classroom aides, curriculum coaches, paraprofessionals (classroom helpers, playground assistants) and tutors.

• Specialized service providers include nurses, speech therapists, occupational therapists, vision specialists, reading specialists, social workers, psychologists, and others who contribute to a child’s Individual Education Plan. All of these services are usually coordinated by a student’s guidance or adjustment counselor.


• Teachers are the certified professionals in your child’s classrooms who provide instruction in a range of subjects in the elementary grades, and specific topic areas in the higher grades. A teacher spends the most time with your child during the school day and is the first person to contact with issues, concerns and questions.

• Teacher aides or assistants help classroom teachers with lessons and by providing an extra pair of hands. They supervise children, work in small groups and often provide clerical support.

• Reading specialists screen children to identify potential problems and to design programs for additional instruction or intervention. They test children in elementary grades and counsel parents about the proper instruction needed at school or at home to help the child succeed.

ONT size=3>Guidance

ONT face=Verdana size=2>• Guidance counselors work with students to keep them on track during school and for pursuits beyond high school. They broach student issues with a support team to ensure that solutions are found. In the elementary years, they often identify students who need special educational services.

• Adjustment counselors are usually trained social workers who help students resolve issues that interfere with learning, including social and personal problems or mental health issues. These counselors can provide individual or group counseling with families, as well as crisis counseling.

ONT size=3>Administrative

ONT face=Verdana size=2>• Principals are responsible for everything that goes on in their building – from teaching and learning practices to building management, personnel hiring and firing, and relationships with individual families.

• Curriculum coordinators develop programs for each content or subject area. They support teachers and principals, observe classrooms and suggest improvements for how classes are taught. Under the direction of a deputy superintendent, curriculum coordinators usually decide what will be taught, how it will be taught and what materials will be used to teach a particular subject.

• Assistant superintendents for student services coordinate all elements of guidance programs, social work, health and special education, and work with a deputy superintendent to ensure these programs are integrated with the general education program.

• Deputy superintendents coordinate all educational programs. They make sure curriculum supervisors, assistant superintendents and anyone else who provides services to children in pre-kindergarten through grade 12 follow a systematic approach. Some systems have one deputy devoted to curriculum and learning, and another for all student-related services, including special education, discipline, guidance, health, and developmental concerns.

• Superintendents coordinate all of the above efforts and are the liaisons between the schools, the school committee and the community.

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From United Parenting Publications, October 2003.