Friday the 13th was scarier for hundreds of parents this year than it was for their kids. 530 School Aides, represented by District Council 37, were fired that day as the DOE acted to reduce head count. Some of the fired Aides held a rally the following Tuesday outside of P.S. 375 on East 111th Street, in Spanish Harlem.
Jeanette Soto, one of the Aides who was fired, said “it was a smack in the face” when she went home on October 2nd to find a letter in her mailbox terminating her employment. Marilyn Rosado, who had been working at the school for three years, and performs a range of essential tasks daily such as tracking immunizations, copying homework assignments and texts for kids, as well as acting as a business supply manager, said it was “shocking” when friends called her to ask if the principal of the school had informed her of the firings.
Local 372 sued to prevent the firings on the grounds that they were discriminatory in nature, but declined to post a $780,000 bond demanded by the Department of Education to keep them employed while the case was adjudicated. State Supreme Court Justice Carol Edmead agreed to the requirement. The Union’s position was that posting such a bond would be a bad precedent for labor relations. It hopes to see the Aides re-hired with back pay.
“We are here to tell Mayor Bloomberg, the D.O.E, Joel Klein, and Governor Patterson: no more cuts to education!!!” chanted the protestors. Aide Sheanica Davis, who also has two children at the school, ages seven and eleven, fought back tears as she told the assembled crowd of parents, local politicians, protesters and community leaders about the effects the cuts have had. Without anyone to watch them, she said, “I don’t feel my kids are safe inside the school.” Since the firings, she said, there are only two safety officers to watch the more than eleven exits of the four schools in the building, and just the day before, a child reported missing to the police was believed to have left the school through one of the unattended doors.
“There is no longer anyone to meet the children at the school buses outside the school,” added Davis, who, along with Rosado and Soto also described how students now had to eat lunch in their classrooms and were not being allowed outside for recess breaks since the school no longer had the proper personnel for supervision.
New York City Councilmember Melissa Mark-Viverito of the 8th Council District said she was “very concerned” about the cuts, and that “even in these difficult financial times we have to be mindful of the community’s concerns. The decisions regarding the schools that are being made are not collaborative,” she said.
“Actions are taken without us and then we are forced to react. We want to sit down and be part of the decision-making process,” the Councilwoman said. Viverito has a meeting scheduled with the D.O.E this week. “We are here to demand accountability, to organize, raise voices and work collaboratively to minimize what the individual constituents have to deal with. The working poor and working families need relief,” she added.
Corey Ortega, Special Assistant to Keith Wright, Member of the Assembly, 70th District, also came out to lend his support and expressed concern about schools across the board getting cuts.
Mirroring the Union’s argument before the Supreme Court, Former Aide Davis said that schools serving populations with lowest income were disproportionately affected by the cuts. She added that she believed the staff cuts at P.S. 375 were designed to make the school fail to meet targets, paving the way for a building takeover by the charter school Harlem Success, which had previously tried to establish itself there.
Protesters at the rally say they are ready to do whatever it takes to reverse the firings. “We will continue to fight for a quality education even if that means getting together with other schools across the city and having a massive walk-out. We are willing to boycott the school system until they stop the cuts to education,” one said.