North Rockland Board Meeting Turns to Finger-Pointing and Hurt Feelings

BY SARA GILBERT

The public comments portion of the North Rockland Central School District board meeting on Tuesday, June 19 monopolized the evening. CSEA union members were not happy about the lack of communication from administrators and board members.

Roughly 40 NRCSD employees squeezed into a room in the administration building at 65 Chapel Street in Garnerville with emotions ranging from disappointed to blisteringly angry to full-on tears.

Budget cuts have resulted in a tremendous amount of lay-offs this year, with more to come. And the school board has not been forthright as to whom will have a job next year, and if so, where.

“None of us know where we’re going next year,” said one woman who asked to remain anonymous. “Even though we’ve tried to find out and asked for information, there’s just no communication on their part.”

According to Union President Jeanne Hughes, there are 450 CSEA members currently in this situation.

Another woman piped up in the meeting, addressing Mary Romano, “You’re choosing not to take care of CSEA members, none of us are being told anything.”

Romano defended that all the members of the board have been working many hours over-time in order to make sure that the right thing is done for everyone involved. “The money is gone. There is no more. And these people are here all the time.”

President Deborah Gatti replied to the allegations as well, “Unfortunately, teachers came first… and the amount of work that’s been going on in order to get our ducks in a row… I understand that you feel forgotten, but it’s not true.”

Another woman who asked to remain anonymous described how two weeks ago her boss told her she was being transferred but couldn’t tell her where. “I still haven’t heard anything and school’s now over and I don’t know what I’m suppose to do. Do I file for unemployment? Do I need to look for a new job? Do I move my boxes, and if so, to where? Will I have a job next year? What if I don’t have health insurance coverage for me and my family?” The questions go on, and unanswered.

Another anonymous employee shared how she learned she was being laid-off, at a school board meeting. “No one told me anything. That’s how I had to find out. And I’ve tried to get in touch with someone to talk to them, I’ve written letters and have heard nothing back.”

The daughter of another CSEA member who lost her job, Amanda Puglese, 19, addressed the board, “My mother relied on this job and she lost it. These people rely on their salaries from these jobs. It’s not fair to them. Please take this into consideration.”

Puglese grew up attending North Rockland and loved it, she said. But since leaving and starting Iona College she feels things have changed drastically. “Things aren’t getting done on time,” she complained.

“Now, I would never raise my children here,” she declared.

Another soul, Susan Gregg, got up and addressed the board. “I put out my back for this place for over eight years. I emailed and called to try to talk to someone. No one returned my calls. It was like I was a criminal. What did I do wrong? Nothing!” she cried.

Gregg explained how she has two children, a mother-in-law and grandchild that all rely on her support.

She drew the distinction between her requirement to put in two weeks’ notice before leaving the job and their lack of any such courtesy. “I consider you my family, my friends. I wouldn’t treat you this way,” she said.

The board was mostly quiet throughout these interactions. Gatti finally said, “We clearly hear the concerns and are going to try to do our best to get letters out to everyone with information.”

All remaining items on the agenda passed quickly.

The finance reports and tax refunds were approved. The past minutes’ meetings were approved. The 2012-2013 calendar was approved. And the board’s workshop session to set taxes was scheduled for August 28 from 6-7:30 p.m., before that day’s board meeting.