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Briarcliff Parents Unhappy With Aide Elimination

BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. – The Briarcliff Manor Union Free School District board voted 3-2 to eliminate 27 teacher aide positions Monday night. The positions are scheduled to be eliminated at the end of the school year.

The board also agreed in another 3-2 decision Monday night to create 27 teaching assistant positions for the 2012-13 school year. School board members Sal Maglietta and Jennifer Rosen held the dissenting votes on both items.

Ginny Fitzgerald, co-president of the School Related Professional Union, which represents the district’s aides, said she did make a statement at Monday's meeting because she felt the board had already made its decision.

“It is a consolation that two members voted against it, but it doesn't save any jobs," Fitzgerald said. “I think it's more telling that not one parent or community member stood up in any of the meetings and said they were in favor of this but many stood up opposing it.”

Fitzgerald added that she's spoken to several aides since the decision and they are all disheartened by the vote.

“We have been in the district anywhere from 10 to 18 years and we all thought we were doing a good job,” Fitzgerald said. “I know there was talk about non-compliance but I hadn't heard of a single penalty against the district. There's a new sheriff in town and this is what he wanted.”

Fitzgerald's comment referred to statements from Superintendent of Schools Neal Miller that the aides were out of compliance with commissioner’s regulations.

Parent Fiona Collins said Monday night that many in the community opposed the decision, but she had an idea of why the meeting did not have as high of a turnout as prior discussions.

“I understand that it was a done deal,” Collins said. “So I know a lot of Todd (Elementary School) parents said ‘why go tonight?’ who were just as upset as I am.”

Parent and prior board member Lisa Tane said that Monday’s decision is going to be bad for the whole district, and that she disagrees that the aides were out of compliance with regulations.

“While two teachers in every classroom would be a wonderful thing, they haven’t shown that they can in fact do that,” Tane said. “They haven’t said one word about the middle school or high school and how that plan would work.”

Board Vice President Rosella Ranno defended the plan Monday night.

“I disagree wholeheartedly that we’re barreling down the road without thinking,” Ranno said during the meeting. “I think this is a tremendous opportunity for our district.”

With the average district teacher’s aide making roughly $31,000 and a teacher assistant making roughly $21,000 annually, Rosen brought up concerns that the real motivation for the plan was money.

Miller did not answer the concern directly Monday, but later commented on the economic situation of the district.

“We’re not talking about an economy that is thriving yet,” Miller said. “Eventually it might and if that does happen we’ll have to adjust to that.”

At a previous meeting , Miller said the district would be making these changes in order for the district to properly comply with New York State Education Department and Commissioner’s Regulations, which “don’t allow teacher aides to instruct students like teaching assistants can.”

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