In the GothamSchools Community section, Washington Heights special education teacher Brent Nycz describes how his elementary school coped after losing three of its six school aides and its family worker to layoffs last month. The departures came after three years of budget cuts that have left teachers squeezed and students without essential help, he writes.
The first few days after the layoffs left my school in a state of confusion. I heard rumors from the staff that the school was waiting for an influx of more senior school aides to fill in positions, but no one new came. …
The cafeteria that was once run by school aides is now run by every out-of-classroom, non-cluster staff member, regardless of position. Both the school psychologist and the school social worker complain about having to cover lunch duty for one period each day, leaving both of them scrambling for time to finish a plethora of new referrals. I’ve seen more of the IEP teacher with my students in the cafeteria than providing IEP support.
Nowadays, our school has adjusted to the loss of the school aides just as we have adjusted to the loss of resources and staff members over the last couple of years. With the loss of any staff member with no replacement, the staff picks up more tasks and our jobs get harder. We lose more time to focus on our teaching practice and helping our students.
Today, District Council 37, the union that represents the laid-off aides, is filing suit over the layoffs. The suit, which the union announced on Monday, argues that the Department of Education acted in bad faith during its negotiations with DC-37 over the jobs and did not give the City Council or principals a chance to stave off the layoffs. It also argues that the DOE violated state law by conducting layoffs that disproportionately affected schools with many poor students.