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East Harlem parents call for city to save their school aides

Parents and staff at an East Harlem elementary school are protesting the city’s plan to lay off all of their school aides.

Rallying outside of the entrance of Mosaic Preparatory Academy as school let out this afternoon, parents, students and staff called for the city to save their five school aides’ jobs. The school is slated to lose the five people who currently hold the positions, not the positions themselves.

Parent coordinator Maria Torres said that Mosaic’s principal, Lisette Caesar, has money in the school’s budget to preserve the aide jobs. But because the aides were all hired just a year ago when the school opened, they are among the most junior aides in the district, and thus the first to receive pink slips.

“Our principal has been trying to keep them, and the parents have been doing everything they can,” said Rose Jimenez, the president of Mosaic’s parent association. “If we can afford to keep them, it sounds unfair.”

One of Mosaic’s aides, Sheanica Davis, said that her main job is to keep students safe. She scrolled through a list of parents in her cell phone’s contact list, saying that she keeps in regular touch with many of them, assuring them that their children have arrived to school on time and are eating healthy meals.

Jimenez emphasized that the loss of aides who have developed strong personal relationships with students and teachers will have a debilitating effect on the school. “[The cuts] aren’t just affecting the aides who are losing their jobs,” Jimenez said. “They’re also affecting the kids emotionally.”

Torres said that economic disparities meant that the layoffs would hurt schools like Mosaic more than wealthier schools in other districts. “They’re just setting us up to fail,” she said.

Davis said that she wasn’t sure what she will do if she loses her position. Her husband just went through spinal fusion back surgery, she said. “But my main concern is that I’m a parent here too,” she said.

The rally this afternoon was put together by the controversial community organizer group ACORN.

School aides around the city targeted for layoffs were originally told their jobs would end last Friday. But a last-minute restraining order against the Department of Education kept the aides on the job this week.

In the order, State Supreme Court Justice Carol Edmead singled out Mosaic as one of the low-income, high-needs schools that would be disproportionately harmed by the layoffs. Lawyers for the aides’ union, D.C. 37, have argued that the city is illegally replacing union workers with temporary employees without benefits.

All five of Mosaic’s aides are going to court Monday to testify against the layoffs, Davis said. The State Supreme Court will rule that day whether to continue the restraining order and further pursue the matter in court.

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