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Questions Linger Regarding Syosset TAs

Syosset teaching assistants fear for their jobs while administration denies any plan to eliminate them

At the last board meeting on Monday, Sept. 24, Superintendent Carol Hankin said, in response to the allegation from attendee Martin Ugell (whose wife is a district TA) that the district is planning to mass-fire all district TAs, “There is no plan, at all, for this June to get rid of the TAs… I can tell you for sure, we haven’t talked about doing that.” However, the Syosset-Jericho Tribune has recently obtained a document, with Hankin’s signature, that explicitly mentions eliminating all teaching assistants.

The document, a stipulation of a March 19, 2012 agreement between the negotiating committee for the Syosset Central School District and the Civil Service Employees Association, Syosset Local AFSCME, AFL-CIO, states the following:

“Whereas, in acknowledgement of current and future economic uncertainties, the district has advised the CSEA that it has begun the legal process by which approximately 166 bargaining unit positions, including all teaching assistants positions, are to be eliminated during the 2012-2013 school year….”

When contacted about this discrepancy between what Hankin said to the public last month and this document, the district released the following statement:

“At this time, the district has no plans to eliminate any positions, including that of teaching assistants, at the conclusion of the 2012-13 school year. During last year’s budget process, all bargaining units took a pay freeze in order to preserve the fiscal safety of the district as a whole. The CSEA, who represents the teaching assistants, did not agree to the pay freeze at that time— threatening the jobs of the teaching assistants. Once a pay freeze was accepted, no jobs were in jeopardy of being eliminated. As it is still early in the current school year, no plans regarding the budget for the 2013-14 school year have been made.”

In contrast to what the superintendent said on Sept. 24, the above mentioned document indicates that there was at one point a plan under discussion that involved eliminating the teaching assistants.

According to sources close to the teaching assistants who wished not to be identified, teaching assistants throughout the district are still concerned that there is a mass firing planned at the end of the year, despite the district’s statement to the contrary. District TAs fear they will be replaced with inexperienced “teaching consultants” who are not entitled to benefits, as has been done in other LI districts.

The Syosset-Jericho Tribune is currently evaluating additional documents the paper has obtained on this topic and will continue to follow this story. The next Syosset CSD Board of Education meeting will take place on Monday, Oct. 15.