WXXI AM News

Union members say RCSD reopening plans could be tweaked to save jobs

Aug 28, 2020

Members of the Board of Education Non-Teaching Employees union staged a rally Friday morning in Rochester.
Credit provided photo

The union representing more than 1,200 non-teaching employees of the Rochester City school district is proposing changes to the district's reopening plans in an effort to prevent layoffs.

Under superintendent Lesli Myers-Small's current plans, about 200 members of the Board of Education Non-Teaching Employees Union (BENTE) would be laid off for ten weeks.

"These are city residents, low-income," said union president Dan DiClemente. "Some of them don't even make ten dollars an hour, so to go ten weeks without pay would be devastating to them, especially coming off the summer months when they don't work."

DiClemente says if elementary school buildings were opened for students to get help with remote learning, that could keep food service workers, bus drivers, and security staff employed through the fall.

The current plan calls for city staff to man 10 R-Centers student learning labs.

"We just can't understand why children can congregate at the rec center to watch the teacher on the screen as opposed to coming into their school building where they have all the resources available and still do remote learning from there," DiClemente said.

The union says its members can also be put to work by making home calls to help students set up their Chromebooks and to deliver hot meals.

"That would allow more food service staff to work, because the more meals they produce, the more money food services makes, and it's a great service to the community," said DiClemente. "A lot of these parents are disabled; they're not going to walk two miles to get a cold sandwich at one of the food distribution sites."

Superintendent Myers-Small said in a statement that the district is carefully considering each option presented to retain as many staff as possible while maintaining fiscal responsibility.

The union and the district said they are scheduled to meet to discuss the proposals next week.

The city school district faces a $60 million budget deficit and a 20 percent reduction in state aid.

On Thursday, BENTE, along with the Rochester Teachers Association, and the Rochester Association of Paraprofessionals wrote a letter to Myers-Small and the Board of Education asking that any layoffs be postponed until Congress has an opportunity to pass the next federal stimulus package.

RTA President Adam Urbanski said hundreds of Rochester teachers could lose their jobs under the district's current budget proposal.

Union leaders are hoping the latest government relief will restore funding to the state and eliminate the need for the school budget cuts.