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Briarcliff School Board Discusses Aides Release

BRIARCLIFF, N.Y. – Despite several protests from Briarcliff Manor School District teacher aides and parents Monday night, at least 27 of 30 teacher aides positions are still in line for elimination at the end of the school year.

Briarcliff Superintendent of Schools Neal Miller told dozens in attendance Monday night at the board of education's work session that the district is moving forward with plans to replace the aides with teaching assistants next school year. The aides were notified individually or in small groups during a school day earlier this month.

Miller presented the plan to replace the aides, while expressing some remorse over what he called a “difficult decision.”

“It’s a shame but if you’re going to have lemons, you have to make lemonade,” Miller said, later commending the aides for the work they have done for the school district. “Through no fault of their own they won’t be able to continue working in our district.”

During his presentation, Miller reiterated that the decision was made after he recently learned that the Briarcliff Manor School District had not been in compliance with New York State Education Department and Commissioner’s Regulations that he said “don’t allow teacher aides to instruct students like teaching assistants can.”

“I have to make sure we’re complying with the law,” Miller said. “I didn’t want to have our aides leave, but we had to be in compliance with the law.”

Miller could not recount how many hours the district’s aides put into instruction or how it is measured. He later invited the aides to apply for the teaching assistant positions provided they “meet the highest level of teaching certification.” Miller also confirmed reports Monday night that the teacher aides currently make roughly $30,000 a year, while teacher assistants would make about $21,000 a year. He repeated that the financials “had nothing to do with the decision.”

While no school board member disagreed with Miller’s plan to replace the aides, members discussed bringing the issue back for a decision at a future board meeting. Board Trustee Salvatore Maglietta said he had more questions about the decision.

“It sounds like some things have not been fully vetted,” Maglietta said following the presentation, garnering applause from the public in attendance. “I’m not looking to be a contrarian, I’m just looking to do the smart thing.”

Elizabeth Breslin, one of the district's aides, said she was not happy with the plan.

“I think there’s a real confusion of credentials over quality,” Breslin said, adding that she was concerned teaching assistants would not have enough experience in the district. She added, “I think it’s a big mistake to let people who have worked with these kids for a long time just go.”

Dee Jones, whose children were both aided by Breslin, said she didn’t believe her children would’ve succeeded as well without teacher aides.

“My daughter would not be going to college without Mrs. Breslin,” Jones said. “I think the board needs to reconsider the superintendent’s decision and there needs to be an opportunity for the teacher aides to not have to lose their jobs or move into other positions where their salaries would be cut.”

Mae Isaac, another Briarcliff Manor School District parent, said she is concerned that the lower salaried teaching assistants might feel inclined to seek other opportunities.

“We don’t need increased turnover in our district,” she told the board. “The community does not want this.”

Isaac said after the presentation that she was confused with the board’s response.

“I don’t think it addressed the concerns of the community fully,” she said. “I don’t think it was encouraging that the board was as surprised as the community was. I think this should’ve been discussed before the decision was made.”

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