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Union Rep Says Layoffs Are Coming for School Aides

Schools superintendent says the NJEA's Vickie Walsh has it all wrong.

A union representative for Parsippany school district paraprofessionals says Superintendent LeRoy Seitz's nearly $130 million budget plan, which now does not include 24 kindergarten teacher's aides and assistants, is unacceptable.

In a presentation before the Board of Education at a special meeting last Thursday, Seitz said the 24 paras had to be cut due to a state regulation that says paras can only be used in kindergarten classes with more than 25 students.

Vickie Walsh of the New Jersey Education Association, who represents the Parsippany-Troy Hills Educational Support Association's paras, said Seitz's statement means one thing: layoffs.

"Twenty-four people are going to lose their positions," she warned. "We have in the contract a seniority clause. I know people who have been in these positions for more than 20 years. Some of them could be bumped to other positions, but who will get bumped remains to be seen. And this is only if the district does the right thing and applies the language that exists in the contract."

Seitz said Walsh is wrong.

"When the BOE approved the preliminary budget last week, we increased the proposed budget to provide the district and the board time to see if we can either get the paraprofessionals back in the budget or find a reasonable alternative solution," he told Patch.

At the Thursday gathering, Seitz announced that he is looking for ways to keep aides--who are paras--in the kindergarten classes.

"Kindergarten paraprofessionals are an essential part of our kindergarten program and I, along with many other people, would love to have them back in the classroom come September," he said.

The preliminary budget, including that extra funding to cover the cost of kindergarten aides, was approved by the school board by a 6-3 vote.

No votes came from members Susy Golderer, Gary Martin and Michael Strumolo.

Walsh said the NJEA hopes to organize the community in hopes that 
residents will stand up to support the paras. And she said the district has an option it can take to keep paras in kindergarten classes.

"All the superintendent has to do is justify that they're educationally needed," she said. "No school district has lost state aid over something like this. They're not going to withhold funding over this. Even with the superintendent's salary increase they didn't withhold funding. And it's not as if they'll make it up with a health benefits package. Paraprofessionals do not get health benefits." 

Under the terms of the fact finder's report, which the BOE approved by a 7-2 vote July 12, 2011, and that went into effect in September 2011, the paraprofessionals received three-year contracts that allowed teacher's aides and assistants 3 percent retroactive raises covering the school years 2007-08 and 2008-09, 2 percent raises for 2009-10, 2011-12 and 2012-13, and no raise at all in 2010-11.

In addition, paraprofessionals remain excluded from receiving health care benefits, despite their status as full-time employees.

The paraprofessionals, who went four years without a contract (the Parsippany-Troy Hills Educational Support Association, the union that represents school paraprofessionals, became an official bargaining unit after its founding in 2007) had approved the fact finder's report previously, even though it gave paras far less than they had hoped.

Pay levels for paraprofessionals range from $18,786 to $20,352 for the 2012-2013 school year.

Walsh said that the paras have not yet received the retroactive pay for 2007.

"No one has received their retro checks, even the people presently employed," she stated. "They're telling them it will come March 15, but that remains to be seen."

Walsh also accused the district of refusing to give retroactive pay to paras who, though part of the bargaining unit in 2007, have left district employment. She argued that they should be paid fully for the time they did work.

"If they were a bargaining-unit member for 2007, then they are entitled to compensation for 2007," she insisted. "If they left after that, then obviously, they aren't entitled to anything else. The district is challenging that. The mere fact that they haven't paid these people any of this retroactive money, despite the fact that the board agreed to this[last year] is absolutely ridiculous."

Meanwhile, Walsh said she is also representing school secretaries, for whom negotiations reportedly are underway. The union rep told Patch, however, that the parties have yet to sit down at the negotiating table.

"We've exchanged information, but we have not sat down with them yet," she said.  

Walsh said the last time information was shared was in November and that the district has not chosen a date for the two sides to meet. She said she sent a letter to the district stating her "concern," but has not received a response or any suggested meeting dates.

Superintendent Seitz would not comment on these issues, he said, because of the confidential nature of union negotiations.

Gordon Rizzuto March 06, 2012 at 08:16 PM
I'm sorry to say this whole retroactive pay thing is ridiculous. The economy is bad if you have an issue with the amount your being paid find another job.
Frank Drebin March 06, 2012 at 08:53 PM
Oh Gosh!! They are being replaced with LeRoy Seitz's ipads??
parhome March 06, 2012 at 10:38 PM
If the aides aren't needed, they have to go. Hate to see anyone lose their job but we need to cut costs. What will all the sisters/brothers/nephews/nieces/neighbors of the teachers/administration do now? They fill every job opening in the district.
parhome March 06, 2012 at 10:39 PM
Also, the aides are such hardworking individuals. Make the cuts at some other level ... like the secretaries. There are too many of them.
Raffaele Persico March 07, 2012 at 01:42 AM
WHEN i WENT TO SCHOOL THERE WHERE NO TEACHER'S AIDS, MAYBE WHAT HAS HAPPENED IS THE PARENTS ARE TRASH AND THEY PASS THIS ON TO THEIR KIDS. wHAT ARE THEY RUNNING A JAIL OR A SCHOOL.
Raffaele Persico March 07, 2012 at 01:44 AM
A CONTRACT IS A CONTRACT AND MUST BE PAID.
Raffaele Persico March 07, 2012 at 01:55 AM
CUT NO ONE, LIVE WITH IN YOU MEANS. DO ONLY WHAT YOU CAN AFFORD THAT IS TRULY BEST FOR THE STUDENTS AND THE PEOPLE PAYING FOR IT. No free rides anymore, get real. School is to learn how to read, write, and do math the rest should be up to the student and their parents. You want a club, music, etc if you are really any good at it you will find a way. "GOYA" get off your A** go for it it's the American way, Yes be a real American, make it happen for yourself by yourself. It will be worth more to you than anything that was ever just given too you for nothing. God Bless America and it's true people.
Andy Sadowski March 07, 2012 at 02:46 AM
Why does the school board always make the smallest things into a big ordeal. Correct me if I am wrong, but is seems that on the Meeting on Feb. 28 that Dr. Seitz was quoted as saying "$500,000 is intended to help the board find alternate ways to compensate for the loss of these 24 paraprofessionals, who were each making up to $20,000 per year." The Patch article made it seem rather clear that the 24 people will be loosing their job come September 2012. When this was published, I am sure many parents like myself were upset with the decision made by Dr. Seitz and the board. Todays article paints a different picture. Dr. Seitz is quoted as saying "When the BOE approved the preliminary budget last week, we increased the proposed budget to provide the district and the board time to see if we can either get the paraprofessionals back in the budget or find a reasonable alternative solution," It seems clear that he is sending mixed signals to the voters of Parsippany...
Andy Sadowski March 07, 2012 at 02:56 AM
When Dr. Seitz was asked about the accountabilty issue, he stated that NJAC 6A:23A:9.3©9 deals with the requirment for school staffing.. This regulations states ""Aides that are not mandated by law or required by an IEP employed only when supported by independent research-based evidence that demonstrates the use of aides is an effective and efficient way of addressing the needs of the particular student population served." A Kindergaten class is a class that has particular student needs. In Parsippany, there are many children from many different ethnic backgrounds that are starting school. Some start school speaking very little or no Engish at all. Other children are entering an academic environment for the very first time and have little or no socialization experience. These and many other factors make a Kindergarten Class a unique setting that will benifit from a teachers aide in the classroom. How can one teached be expected to deal with all these issues by themelves?
Andy Sadowski March 07, 2012 at 03:15 AM
New Jersey has published an article dealing with Kindergarten. The article states "According to the American Educational Research Association (2003), small classes have the greatest impact when experienced in the early grades. Given the nature and needs of kindergarten children, it is optimal that a teacher assistant work alongside the teacher in any kindergarten classroom." For your reference, the article can be found at -- http://www.nj.gov/education/ece/guide/KindergartenGuidelines.pdf Based on the article, I can only assume that a teaching assistant can easily be justifed due to the fact that that class is made up of kids that are entering out school district with little or no experience in an academic setting. It appears as though the school board and Dr. Seitz is disrupting the lives of these 24 paraprofessionals who are currently working with our kids on a daily basis. In my email, I challanged Dr. Seitz to step back into a classroom and have him spend a day in the Kindergarten Class. I wonder how long he would last if he were the only teacher in the class without any assistance from the teacher or a paraprofessional. I can only imagine that it would not be very long and he would appreciate the services they provide. Hopefully the board and Dr. Seitz will realize that the regulation that they are provided does not apply becuase there is evidence that the use of aides in a kindergarten setting will only benifit the kids in the school...
Diane Campbell March 07, 2012 at 03:52 AM
There was a time that special needs students, including students with emotional and behavorial issues were "sent out". I know this because I worked with them for several years in Special Services. I loved my job. I can say that it was common place for a student to have a difficult time in class and would have to be removed. Sometimes the student would have to just take a walk, have a talk with me, play a game of basketball...if he/she "earned" it, of course and there were times that the student would just have to spend the day with me because he/she couldn't pull it together enough to return to class. These were issues that we would deal with because we were an "Alternative School". Many of you might not know the term but I promise you, they did exist. Fast foward to 2012. The children that I worked with are staying in district. They are not attending an "Alternative Program". This is called inclusion. Now, Inclusion is a wonderful thing...but it must be supported to be successful. Thankfully, a child with special needs will most likely recieve an aide with his/her IEP but I can tell you that public school teachers take on so much more than they did "back in the day". I hear people comment about how "when I was a kid"...well, when you were a kid, the kids that were causing a commotion just suddenly didn't show up for class. They went to the school that I worked at. Teachers today have it very differently. They are not only teaching spelling and math...
Diane Campbell March 07, 2012 at 03:58 AM
They are constantly evaluating behaviors, coming up with behavior modification plans, exucuting these incentive/rewards systems, making sure our ESL students and getting the support that they need, marking and addressing target behaviors ...oh....and teaching spelling and math... I do suggest having anyone that questions the reason for having an assistant in the classroom...please...walk a day in these teachers's shoes. Oh, and please be sure to sing, wipe noses, tie shoes,answer ALL those questions, pick up crayons, remind to wash hands, help with getting those pesky zippers up after using the bathroom and remind everyone why we don't lick the glue...
Selene March 07, 2012 at 05:25 AM
I had a child in Knollwood School who was performing "under par" according to the adminstration and the teachers. They wanted to "classify" him and put him in Special Ed. They had their little IEP all drawn up. We left Parsippany for a new home in Rockaway. My son was given extra time to finish exams and projects in Rockaway by his wonderful 5th Grade teacher. He became an honor roll student. HHmmm perhaps my son was a victim of bad teachers at Knollwood. Ya think????? The system has to change......the kids who get it and are doing o.k. need to take the backseat, The kids who need additional instruction need to take the forefront, everyone learns differently. Its a good teacher who knows this.
steve revette March 07, 2012 at 05:26 AM
Diane is right. Kids used to be sent out of district. Also Diane if there IEP says it they HAVE TO have it there is no other option. However, Diane it's not just teachers who are taking more responsibility I too have more responsibility at my job.
Diane Campbell March 07, 2012 at 11:53 AM
I am fully aware of an IEP works and those paraprofessionals are part of what can make inclusion successful. Steve, I agree that we all have taken on so much more at work. I also know that you have strong opinions about how the system works so please take my opinions wih all due respect. I will say that even though I have taken on additional responsibilities at work, that won't affect other people's children. If we are going to take the stance that a kindergarten teacher must suck it up ... Who are we punishing? When I was in kindergarten, I played, colored and learned to use a scissor. My kids leave kindergarten reading. There are clearly higher standards being met now and to expect that one person can have 24 children doing that alone is a bit unreasonable and again, the only ones suffering are the kids.
Diane Campbell March 07, 2012 at 11:58 AM
Just a side note: being given extra time to finish tests would have been addressed with an IEP and having a child with special needs end up on the honor roll would be any teacher's goal. I don't see how this would imply Knollwood is a bad school. In fact, how amazing that they identified do early on.
Rosetta March 08, 2012 at 01:56 AM
Thank you. I have been a kindergarten para for over 20 years. We all work very hard helping the children academically and safety wise. The teacher and the para work side-by-side to have the school day run smoothly. The people who feel another person is not necessary in kdg, should go spend one day in a classroom and I'm sure they would change their minds.
Rosetta March 08, 2012 at 02:02 AM
Thank you Andy. I have worked as a kdg para for over 20 years and I feel that my presence in the classroom has been extremely beneficial to the students.
Rosetta March 08, 2012 at 02:04 AM
Amen.
Hughes March 09, 2012 at 10:47 PM
What about the student that has a full-time aide all because he soley has a peanut allergy? That is lunacy!
Natalie66 March 10, 2012 at 12:34 AM
I agree Hughes.. someone is speaking some sense here. The "abuse" and "waste" of our hard earned money by this administration is unacceptable. Yet, we just take it... no unity in anything. SAD, SAD, SAD
parhome March 10, 2012 at 02:33 AM
I'm confused. So, is the Superintendent going to find something for these aides to do? That is ludicrious. We'll save $500,000, why would we reassign them? This is not personal. Simply do the math.
Frank Drebin March 10, 2012 at 03:21 AM
I did the Math less school aides ($500,000) = more Ipads. Brilliant LeRoy

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