In the Community section last week, teacher Brent Nycz said his sense of loss after his school lost four aides to layoffs was mitigated only by rumors that the aides could get by without their meager salaries.
In response, a commenter identifying as a laid-off worker said being able to “collect” without working is little consolation for having to leave a meaningful job.
“Only those of us who work in a school and know the relationships you form with the children … understand how staying home while school continues without you is the most difficult thing to deal with,” the worker wrote. “This experience has been awful and I wake up everyday hoping to be called back and everyday I realize it’s never going to happen.”
It seems that some school aides might have gotten calls to come in to work— against labor rules. Last week’s edition of the Principals Weekly newsletter cautioned principals against trying to use the laid-off workers as substitute teachers.
“These employees are not authorized to work as substitutes,” the newsletter said. “It is important to note that there is no mechanism to pay these employees if they are called to work. Additionally, there are strict contractual regulations that guide the use of substitute school aides; employing laid off employees as substitutes violates the collective bargaining agreement.”
Schools that are looking to fill aide positions should draw from the pool of aides whose previous schools cut their positions, the newsletter said.
After some schools cut aide positions to save money, the city laid off more than 650 less-senior aides at other schools in accordance with the aides’ union contract, which requires seniority-based layoffs. Some of the senior school aides whose schools cut their positions remain “in excess,” collecting their salaries even though they are not currently on any school’s payroll.
Here’s the comment from the laid-off school aide in its entirety:
I was a family worker who did all the things you describe. It is nice to know we were appreciated. But being married does not make this easier. I have heard so many people tell me how I am lucky because now I can stay home and “collect.” Only those of us who work in a school and know the relationships you form with the children, especially those students in [Instructional Support Services], who so desperately need structure and compassion, understand how staying home while school continues without you is the most difficult thing to deal with. And quite frankly, as small as my salary was, I needed it.
My family also needed my health coverage. Does anyone have any idea how much COBRA is? Or that the city cancelled our health insurance on the Monday following the layoffs? Or that no one was sent to replace us despite being told we were laid off because senior staff members were in excess? This experience has been terrible and hurtful. I worked so hard to learn [special education data systems] SESIS and CAP. I could read an IEP and tell you exactly what was wrong or right with it. I knew exactly where every kid should be and what services they should be receiving. I, as you describe with your family worker, kept so much in order when it came to compliance and errors. I was really good at my job and beyond that. And I loved my kids and I think about them everyday. These are the things that City Hall and the DOE will never understand.
This experience has been awful and I wake up everyday hoping to be called back and everyday I realize it’s never going to happen.