After a New York State Supreme Court Judge issued a temporary restraining order on the layoffs of over 500 school aids that the Department of Education ordered for October 16, the school aids were layoff from their DOE on Friday November 13.
On Tuesday parents, community leaders, and organizations rallied outside of Mosaic Preparatory Academy (PS 375) because the school lost all five of its school aids.
“It’s a shame that no one sees the importance of the school aides,” said Rose Jamenez.
The school aides are the ones watching over the students in the hallways and the bathrooms, in the lunchroom and all other areas that the teachers cannot be, she said. If the school aides are taken out of the schools, that means less teaching time for the teachers.
Jamenez said there was no one at her school yesterday to watch over the kids, so the students had to eat their lunches in the classrooms so the teachers wouldn’t lose their lunch break, and the principal had to do bussing since there was no one else to do it.
Also PA president at Mosaic Preparatory Academy, which houses four schools, Jamenez asked “Why did we lose all five?”
She continued to ask why it was that the poorest neighborhoods were being hit hardest cuts and the wealthier schools in the city either were able to retain their school aides or could afford to pay for aides with their own funded monies from parents.
In a released statement, the DOE said, “We give principals authority to make the budget decisions at their schools, and they identified their priorities for this school year. In some cases, because of limited funds, principals elected to discontinue school aide positions. In the current economic climate, we cannot afford to maintain an excess pool of school aides.”
A representative from the DOE told the Amsterdam News that every school was cut by 4.9 percent and that it does not matter in which communities the schools were.
But Denise Cardballo, shop steward at PS 24, said that the principal at her school wanted to keep the school aides because they were hard workers. Cardballo said the layoffs had nothing to do with the principals and the individual budget cuts. “It’s the higher-ups,” she said.
Jose Cenac, a former school aide at PS 24, said he and the other school aides were told that due to the budget cuts city-wide they were no longer part of the Board of Education on Friday.
Cena, who also spoke with the Amsterdam News when the temporary restraining order was issued, mentioned his fear of losing heath care coverage for his family and himself. Now his fears have come true because he is now without health coverage. He is now in the process of applying for unemployment.
“We will survive,” he said, adding that he would “look for another way to get extra income to pay my bills.”
Veronica Montgomery-Costa, president of Local 372 of District Council 37, told the Amsterdam News that she “believes these cuts should have never been made in the first place.”
Montgomery-Costa said the school aides give direct services to students and are paid $12, 000 to $20,000 a year in salary.
“We’re looking at a holiday season fast approaching. They won’t have the kind of provisions to provide for their family and have food on their tables.”
Lillian Roberts, executive director of DC37, told the Amsterdam News that the school aides are just as important as everyone else because they relieve teachers and are like second parents to the students. The layoffs are going to create another round of problems, which could include some having to apply for food stamps and join food lines, she said. “Society is failing them.”
“We don’t have a revolution, but we do have a voice,” Roberts told the Amsterdam News.
DC 37, which asked for the restraining order before to block the layoffs, is still continuing to fight behind closed doors in the form of a “pending lawsuit” to reinstate the schools aides.
Montgomery-Costa said that the case “is still legitimate. Still has merit.”
“DC 37 believes that these layoffs strike at the very heart of the idea of fiscal and educational equality. That is why we will continue to vigorously pursue the pending lawsuit to reinstate these school aides and challenge the city’s attempt to chip away at the fairness and equity in our education and civil service systems,” said Roberts in a statement released regarding the layoffs.