Teachers aide union tells New Hyde Park-Garden City Park current salary is unfair

Teachers aide union tells New Hyde Park-Garden City Park current salary is unfair
Members of the teachers aide union, from left, Joyce Sarro, Fran Pehr, Maria Caridi, Eileen Naso, Ann Inguanta, Cheryl Franklin and Jodi Gaudio, voiced concerns to the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park board of education over contracts. (Photo by Jake Pellegrino)

By Jake Pellegrino

New Hyde Park-Garden City Park teachers aide union members, who have been working without a contract since July, came to Monday’s Board of Education meeting to ask for fair wages.

Maria Caridi, the teachers aide union president, said the $14,000 salary for aides is “well below the poverty level for full-time employees in Nassau County.”

“It is comparable to the wages of high school students working in fast food restaurants,” Caridi said. “We feel the contract presented to us is extremely unfair given the services we provide.”

She did not describe the board’s offer or specify the union’s demands.

Wage numbers do not paint the whole picture, according to Sharon Berlin, a partner at Lamb & Barnosky, the school district’s legal counsel.

With pension, health and dental insurance and other benefits awarded to aides, the cost to the district ranges from $28,470 to $55,000 for an aide per school year, Berlin told Blank Slate Media.

The last contract ended on June 31, Berlin said.

Negotiations began in November, and the parties are at an impasse, Berlin said.

Caridi told Blank Slate Media the union wants a contract comparable with surrounding districts.

Teacher aides are an important part of a child’s experience in class, said Kieran Griffin, a New Hyde Park parent.

Griffin said his children have been “assisted by some pretty remarkable women.”

“Many of whom are community members, you see them passing in town, and that relationship doesn’t waver,” Griffin said. “It’s challenging but I ask as a community member, I’m willing to pay more.”

Ralph Ratto, president of the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park Teachers’ Association, said district funds should be spent on personnel rather than technology.

“Success is not affected by Chromebooks, iPads or SmartBoards but by dedicated people who work with your children,” Ratto said.

Ratto said that “we all live under the threat that our tenured reachers are at risk as well as nontenured teachers.”

Superintendent Jennifer Morrison said, “I want someone to come to the podium who actually was threatened to lose their job because that’s not the truth.”

“I’m going to say something right now in public and I don’t want to hear it again: I never said I was excessing aides,” Morrison said. 

During the meeting the board also held a commemoration for Leah Kuczinski, a New Hyde Park Memorial High School sophomore who died last month.

Kuczinski was killed in a go-kart accident at the Palm Beach International Raceway in Jupiter, Florida, according to Newsday.

“Like everyone in the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park community our staff is heartbroken. The bows and ribbons are small symbols of our grief, but we hang them with great love,” said Road School Principal Kim LaRegina, referring to the decorations around the school in Kuczinski’s honor.

“She was extraordinary, and she lived her life with great love and treated everyone around her with it too,” LaRegina said. “This tragedy reminds us that in an educational era focused on testing and budget caps, school is really about one thing: the children who greet us at the door each morning.”

Rebecca Klar contributed reporting.

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