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Nearly All Briarcliff School Aides Laid Off

BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. - All but three of the 30 Briarcliff schools teachers’ aides were given notice Friday that they would not have jobs in the 2012-13 school year, union officials said.

School officials informed all 30 of the district’s aides during school hours Friday that their positions would be eliminated, said Ginny Fitzgerald, co-president of the School Related Professional union, which represents the district’s aides. Three of the teachers' aides were offered positions as health aides. Fitzgerald said she also received a call from Superintendent Neal Miller notifying her that the layoffs would become effective at the end of the school year in June.

“What the district has told the aides as the reason they’re being laid off is that they’ve been teaching and they shouldn’t be and the district plans to hire teacher assistants instead,” Fitzgerald said Monday. “I know it’s been a budget issue for some time but that wasn’t the reason they were given.”

Board President Guy Rotondo, referred all questions on the matter to the school superintendent Miller. Miller could not be reached for comment on Monday.

With Friday’s notification, the Board of Education has effectively eliminated 70 teachers’ aides in the last three years, Fitzgerald said. The Board also agreed in August 2011 to hire 12 teaching assistants and eliminate six teachers’ aide positions at the start of the 2011-12 school. Miller previously said during the August 2011 board meeting that the cost of having teaching assistants will be comparable to having teachers’ aides.

Fitzgerald said Miller recently told her of a regulation from the New York State Education Department “that aides are not allowed to assist in teaching.”

“It’s been on the books for a very long time and now they’re deciding they want to do something about it,” she said, adding that no other superintendent in the district has enforced the regulation during her 17 years with the union. “They’ve been aware of this for a long time, but we have a new superintendent and the new superintendent pointed out we’re out of compliance and he’s trying to bring the district back into compliance.”

Fitzgerald said she wasn’t aware of any possible penalties that the district could face for not having been in compliance in previous years.

“I haven’t heard one thing about penalties from anyone,” she said. “They only said they want to bring the district back into compliance.”

Next year the district has plans to hire additional teachers' assistants who hold certification through the New York State Education Department, Fitzgerald said.

The district chose not to ask the aides to become certified,  Fitzgerald said.

“Not everybody would have qualified because there are different levels that wouldn’t have qualified. But I know that at least 20 of them would be qualified.”

Teachers’ aides make about $30,000 in annual salary, while teachers’ assistants make roughly $21,000 a year, Fitzgerald said.

“All of our aides have more than 10 years of experience and they know the district and they know the students,” she said. “New teachers’ assistants will most likely be fresh out of college and I think it will be a steep learning curve.”

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