December 06, 2019

Rochester parents and teachers call on district to 'Spare our students, chop from the top!'

Source:  NYSUT Communications
rochester board meeting
Caption: After rallying outside, activists packed the board meeting. Many protesters had to wait outside as the school board limited admission when the crowd surpassed capacity. Photo via RTA Facebook.

Hundreds of Rochester teachers, paraprofessionals, city school parents and families, and community members rallied outside the Rochester City School District Offices and packed the school board meeting Thursday to oppose mid-year staffing cuts that would increase class sizes, disrupt relationships and eliminate services for city students.

They were supported by members of other NYSUT local unions in the region. Many protesters had to wait outside as the school board limited admission when the vociferous crowd surpassed capacity. The board also reportedly reduced the time each person was allowed to speak.

Activists took to the streets as the district proposes personnel cuts in schools citywide, including 152 teachers and 22 paraprofessionals. Educators and parents say the cuts would hit hard the students who need high-quality schools that serve their diverse needs.

"It is unacceptable for RCSD to even consider making classroom cuts in our schools,” RCSD parent Mercedes Phelan said. “This is a high poverty school district and our students need all the supports possible. New York State owes Rochester schools $85 million in Foundation Aid. Instead of cutting services for students and further reducing educational opportunities, the district should be focused on advocating for the money that’s owed to our district.”

“This is not cutting as far away from our students and from the classroom as possible,” Rochester Teachers Association President Adam Urbanski said. “It’s fantasy to think that these mid-year cuts won’t be disruptive to our students and won’t have a devastating impact on their ability to learn. Perhaps the Central Office bureaucracy should look deeper at itself before trying to balance the budget on the backs of students and teachers.”

“Our children don’t deserve the chaos that would result from these staff cuts,” Rochester Association of Paraprofessionals President Angie Rivera said. “Past mismanagement is no excuse for disruptive mid-year cuts that will take away from the educational services students need and deserve.”

“My students look to adults who care for them in unending ways,” said Michael Lynk, a middle school Spanish teacher. “We would be punishing these students by displacing their teachers. What our students need are the skilled and caring teachers that they already have — that know them by face and name, to and through graduation.”

Layoff notices are expected to go out this week. The RTA will hold a special drop-in session for teachers impacted by layoffs from 2:30–6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 9, at the union office (30 N. Union St., Suite 301). Union representatives will provide pertinent information on unemployment benefits, health benefit options and prospects for recalls. NYSUT’s expert on certification, Glenn Jeffers, will be available.

The RTA and RAP are urging parents and community members to contact the school board prior to its meeting on Dec. 19 and urge them to reject the district’s plan to lay off staff in the coming months. The unions are advocating for:

  • cuts from the Central Office and district bureaucracy, if necessary, to keep the cuts away from the classroom to minimize disruption;
  • the district to lobby the state for more funding and delay action as much as possible until Rochester receives more state support; and
  • the district to postpone cuts until the end of the school year when they would be less disruptive, when the district will have more information about the budget moving forward and when there will be more certainty about additional state funding.