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Briarcliff Superintendent to Discuss Aides Release

BRIARCLIFF, N.Y. - Briarcliff Superintendent of Schools Neal Miller said the release of nearly 30 teachers’ aides was part of a plan that he would explain to residents Wednesday.

Miller confirmed that all but three of the 30 Briarcliff schools teachers’ aides were given notice last week that they would not have jobs in the 2012-13 school year. Miller said the district would retain three of the teachers’ aides as health aides.

Miller said the teachers’ aides positions were being eliminated because of a New York State Department of Education regulation that aides were not allowed to assist in teaching duties and added that he would release the full details of the plan in an e-mail blast throughout the district on Wednesday.

“This is a very sensitive situation,” he said Tuesday. “I would prefer to put it all in the e-mail and let that be my definitive statement on this. What I can speak about is the program we’re bringing in and I’m excited about that.”

Miller said he would not go into details on the plans before informing parents himself in the e-mail blast.

“I really feel I would be doing an injustice if I said too much about it now,” he said. “I think the statement that I write will be very informative and it will let people know there is some real strong planning.”

When asked if the plan included brining back aides to work as teachers’ assistants in the district, Miller said he was open to the idea if the aides were certified.

“If an aide is a certified teacher then they will have every ability to apply for an assistant position and we will make sure to hire the best person for that job,” he said, adding that the current aides were asked to carry out their duties until the end of the school year. “We don’t have anything in place with our new plan and we don’t have our new model in place yet.”

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.

“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 Miller.

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.

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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