ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — BY the end of the month, 219 non-teaching employees of the Rochester City School District will lose health insurance, according to a statement from the Board of Education Non-Teaching Employees Union (BENTE).
Superintendent Lesli Myers-Small has withdrawn the district’s proposal to furlough food service and school security staff, BENTE President Dan DiClemente said in a press release.
MORE | ‘Essential then, essential now’: 221 RCSD food service, safety officer layoffs could be coming
During a September meeting, the Board of Education voted to lay-off the 200 plus workers, citing furloughs as a viable financial option and providing health care as a way to lessen the pain.
But that proposal was rejected, after the Board of Education voted unanimously to abolish the impacted positions, saying it was no longer a fiscally viable option in a fully remote learning environment.
“This is a punch in the gut,” BENTE President Dan DiClemente said in a statement. “To remove health care from your own employees in the middle of a pandemic is about the worst thing I have seen any superintendent do in my 27 years with the district. These are the heroes who risked their own health to feed and protect children during the first wave of COVID-19 and Dr. Myers-Small is treating them like gum on the bottom of her shoe.”
RCSD is one of the few local districts who have opted for 100% virtual instruction. That plan was initially supposed to last for the first 10 weeks of the school year. As of Wednesday, no further plans have been finalized for after 10 weeks.
“The acting Chief of Human Capital Initiatives stated that the district would save $1.1 million for the 219 laid off employees over a five-week period, while the estimated cost of health insurance is $91,000 a month,” DiClemente wrote.
Another round of RCSD layoffs comes less than a year after hundreds of jobs were cut due to the district’s fiscal issues. With a budget gap of tens of millions of dollars to close, district officials had lobbied for state aid, but with the coronavirus pandemic waging on, and the state’s fiscal flexibility in limbo, the state aid remains an unknown.
Assemblyman Harry Bronson is calling on the state to send more funding.
“We have to do a better job of funding all of our schools in a equitable and fair way. But importantly our most needed schools districts like the rcsd,” said Harry Bronson, democrat, 138th Assembly District.
The statement says that Thursday is the last day for BENTE’s laid off members.
BENTE members cover a wide range of school occupations, including transportation, custodial, clerical, food service, maintenance, security, storehouse, and more.
RCSD Superintendent Dr. Lesli Myers-Small released says the district is working with New York state to assist those impacted to ensure health care. Myers-Small released this statement Thursday:
“In September, the District presented BENTE leadership with a Memorandum of Agreement that would allow impacted employees to be furloughed. With the best interest of all involved, the District approached BENTE leadership with a proposal that would allow employees to continue their health benefits. Unfortunately that proposal was rejected, and on September 24th, the Board of Education voted unanimously to abolish the impacted positions. As the District continues to examine its current financial situation, this proposal is no longer a fiscally viable option in a fully remote learning environment.
To assist those individuals impacted by the layoff, the District is working in collaboration with local area health agencies. Everyone has a right to health insurance, and we are fortunate that New York State provides this option to anyone who needs it. We have scheduled three in-person sessions where affected BENTE members will have an opportunity to sign up for health insurance. On October 20th, 27th, and 28th. Health Navigators will be at Central Office, 131 West Broad Street, from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to help with enrollment and provide information. In addition, we will have other resources available to offer assistance. Affected employees will be receiving a call from the District with details on the event, including required documentation.
Employees will need to register for this event by calling the Benefits Department at 262-8206 or by emailing Benefits@rcsdk12.org. Individuals who are not able to attend in person can call or email Benefits for alternative options in accessing medical benefits information.”
News 8 has reached out to the Rochester Teachers Union for comment, but neither have immediately returned a request for comment.
Check back with News 8 WROC as we will continue to update this developing story.