Loretta Cross gazed with worry at the graphic covered with numbers depicting the Rochester school district’s plan to eliminate 359 jobs, which included laying off 152 teachers.
“All these numbers… It’s scary. It’s scary,” she said. “And if the parents were to look at this. They would say the same thing. It’s scary.”
A longtime PTA leader at Rochester School 33, Cross said the School District’s potential staff reductions were the most jarring she’d ever seen and her fellow parents were worried what sudden change in the middle of the school year will do to their kids.
“When you’re connected with your teacher, and that teacher is gone,” she said, “that connection, that next teacher, you may not get all the good connecting.”
On Tuesday night, Superintendent Terry Dade revealed his newest proposal for cutting 5% of the district’s staff, to save more than $14 million as the district struggled through a projected $64 million shortfall for this year.
The plan included cutting 272 paraprofessional and teacher jobs. 174 of those were planned to be layoffs and those layoff notices were expected to go out this week.
Some Rochester parents like Diana Lovett at School 33 expressed hoped the coming wave of cuts and layoffs would spare programs important to them like special education.
“I know the ax is going to fall,” she said. “I am hoping and praying that the ax does not fall in that particular area.“
“We are trying to do what we can to assist the victims of this ill-conceived plan,” Adam Urbanski, president of the Rochester Teachers Association said.
He has repeatedly condemned the planned cuts.
In a Tuesday night email to the RTA’s membership, Urbanski wrote, “If cuts must be made, these cuts should be as far away from the classroom as possible. Better yet, the cuts should not be made in the middle of the year.”
That concern brought predictions of trouble for young students from Doreen Young, a grandparent and PTA leader at School 33.
“When you have your teacher that you see every day, and all of a sudden you have this new face coming in there and they’re trying to tell you how to do things, because everyone has their own way of doing things, you’re not going to be very receptive,” Young said.
In his message, Urbanski invited laid-off teachers to come to union headquarters for guidance in job searching and applying for unemployment.
He also said that to help displaced Rochester teachers find work, the RTA had been in contact with suburban school districts and the Syracuse school district.
Urbanski said Union and Human Resources officials from Syracuse had been eager to talk with Rochester teachers and had communicated to him that, “If it’s a good match in the certification area in the tenure area, with what we need, we’ll hire them on the spot.”
The RTA planned to continue pressing the Rochester Board of Education to delay any staff cuts until the end of the school year and scheduled a rally at the school district headquarters Thursday afternoon at 4 p.m.