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221 more cuts at the Rochester City School District

James Brown
WXXI News file photo

Tamiko Matthews received her second pink slip from the Rochester City School District this week. The 40-something mother of one has worked for the district for just two years. 

"What am I going to be able to do next, after this?” Matthews asked. “Am I gonna be able to come back to my job or continuously look for another job?”

More than 200 members of Matthews’ union, BENTE, got notices this week. BENTE workers include chefs, physical therapists and clerical workers, and much of the district’s support staff. More than 600 district teachers and staff have been let go since spring 2019. 

Matthews said her first role as a home-school assistant ended in January. She was one of the 155 teachers and staff culled to help bridge a $60 million mid-year budget gap. Matthews was rehired and retrained as a school safety officer and worked throughout the pandemic.

The layoff notices say the workers could be recalled, but Dan DiClemente, who leads the BENTE union, isn’t getting too optimistic. The Rochester Board of Education is scheduled to vote on the cuts next Thursday.

“We’re trying not to give up hope,” said DiClemente. “But a lot of our members are unfortunately giving up hope. We’re trying to get the board to vote it down.”

DiClemente said recalls are possible if in-school instruction resumes in November, but he said the morale in the union is down.

“They’re just done with the way the district is treating them,” said DiClemente. “They don’t feel valued. They’re like, 'Let's go find someplace else to work.' ”

Matthews said many of her co-workers feel they can’t trust the district anymore.

“They were kind of already planning on moving on because of the back and forth of having a job and not having a job," she said. "Just the uncertainty, the process of not knowing what’s next.”

Matthews said many of these workers have multiple jobs to make ends meet. She said that she’s unsure about her next move, aside from speaking to school board members before they vote.

James Brown is a reporter with WXXI News. James previously spent a decade in marketing communications, while freelance writing for CITY Newspaper. While at CITY, his reporting focused primarily on arts and entertainment.