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Briarcliff Teachers Wear Ribbons to Support Aides

BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. – More than two dozen teachers with the Briarcliff School District “mourned” the loss of 27 of 30 teacher's aides positions this week by wearing black ribbons at work.

Briarcliff Superintendent Neal Miller confirmed Tuesday that all but three of the 30 Briarcliff schools teacher's aides were given notice last week that they would not have jobs in the 2012-13 school year. He also announced the school board’s intentions to replace the aides with teacher's assistants next year. More than 30 teachers at Briarcliff High School, Briarcliff Middle School and Todd Elementary wore black ribbons and dressed in black Thursday.

The teachers and their aides plan to do the same thing at 7:30 p.m. Monday for the Board of Education’s regular meeting at the middle school theater, said Ginny Fitzgerald, co-president of the School Related Professional union, which represents the district’s aides. The move will save the district money, because aides make more money than assistants.

“Many teachers have said they’re going to be there Monday dressed in black,” Fitzgerald said, adding that she was proud of the support shown from the teachers. “They are distressed by this decision and seeing people being let go that have worked with them for a minimum of 10 years. They are not looking forward to losing up to 30 qualified people they care about.”

Fitzgerald is also one of the 30 aides that notified last week. Because of her seniority, she is one of three who were offered the position of health aide, which Fitzgerald said she’s not certain if she’ll accept.

“It’s very different position and it causes a lot of questions I haven’t answered,” she said. “If I don’t want it, it will be offered to the next people on the seniority list. So by taking it I’m not helping anyone else. It’s a very tough question I have to answer and I know many of us are going through worse.”

Superintendent Miller said last week in an e-mailed statement that he and other school officials would address the “difficult changes” with a presentation at Monday’s board meeting. Miller also said the teacher's aides, who are certified teachers, would have the chance to apply for the new positions next year.

But the average salary of a teacher’s aide is about $31,000 a year, while the average teacher’s assistant salary is roughly $20,000 a year. Fitzgerald said it’s not likely that many aides will apply to be assistants.

“Some aides could do that and maybe be able to afford it,” Fitzgerald said. But would they want to? I don’t think anyone wants to do exactly the same job or more for $10,000 less. But what’s more, I don’t think many of them would be able to afford it.”

It’s more likely the aides will either look into early retirement, Fitzgerald said, or seek employment somewhere else.

“Nobody in our union was ready to retire but those over 55 might be able to,” she said. “But those who are younger are going to have a tough time. Schools aren’t looking for more people. (The aides) are depressed and upset at this. People were very happy just a couple of weeks ago because they love their jobs. It’s a much different story now. Prospects aren’t good.”

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