SWR teacher assistants breathe sigh of relief: no layoffs

05/14/2014 1:00 PM |
Shoreham-Wading River teacher assistants were relieved to find out their positions would not be eliminated. (Credit: Paul Squire)

Shoreham-Wading River teacher assistants were relieved to find out their positions would not be eliminated. (Credit: Paul Squire)

After spending several months wondering whether they’d have a job next year, several Shoreham-Wading River teachers assistants got their answer Tuesday night: No one is getting fired.

The district’s school board rejected a recommendation to eliminate five teachers’ assistant positions for the 2014-15 school year at its regular meeting, saying that while they technically aren’t necessary to run the special ed program, canning employees would mean less support for teachers — diminishing a quality of programming the district holds itself to. 

“We always spoken about ‘Shoreham standards’ being above and beyond what’s mandated,” said board member John Zukowski. “Having these aides in the class is beneficial to all the students.”

Charles Althoff, the district’s special education director, conducted a review of the program earlier this year and found that the district needed only 10 teachers assistants to maintain the program. The five extra teachers assistants — whose jobs were officially retained Tuesday — had been “redeployed” to help other district teachers.

Mr. Althoff had asked the board to cut the extra positions to save money.

From the start, some board members Jack Costas, Robert Rose and Sean Beran weren’t on board with the idea.

“You get the biggest bang for your buck from TAs,” Mr. Costas said to applause from the crowd. Other district officials said consolidation plans at district schools this year means the teachers assistants could be especially needed.

The cuts to teachers assistants would have had a “trickle down effect” on other classes, since the extra assistants were being used in other classrooms, said Special Education Parent Teacher Association co-president Alonna Rubin.

“The most important thing for these classes is consistency, and that’s the one thing you’re going to lose if you lose those extra five [teachers assistants].” Ms. Rubin told the board.

Ms. Rubin’s speech may have been unnecessary, board president William McGrath said: The board had already reached a consensus to keep all the teachers assistants.

Some TAs in attendance — including a few whose jobs had been threatened — hugged each other and wiped away tears.

“It meant everything to me,” said one teachers assistant who asked that her name not be printed for fear of losing her job. In September, she was told her position might be eliminated.

She said she had been excessed twice before, only to be brought back months or even years later. Until the board rejected the recommendations to cut her position, she was sure her job was lost.

“I didn’t expect this at all,” she said.

SEPTA co-president Mike Sanchez said he was encouraged by how the board listened to their concerns and “showed their support not just with words, but with their actions.”

“This is like Christmas,” he said after the vote.

psquire@timesreview.com