As part of the budget process, the administration and board of the Garrison Union Free School decided to eliminate three full-time teacher aide positions “based upon an assessment of our students’ needs,” according to the superintendent. Two of those aides are myself and Sally Martini.
Sally has lived in Garrison for 43 years and has worked at the school for 18 years in total. She has a master’s degree in psychology and extensive experience working with special-needs children. I have worked at the school for 17 years, primarily with students with special needs. Before that, I was a director of residential services at the Rhinebeck Country School and Community Living Corp. for 28 years.
Sally and I will lose the opportunity to reach the 20-year retirement mark to collect our full benefits. Sally has been denied the option of her medical insurance benefit because she is a year shy of the 15 consecutive years needed. She worked for four years, left to raise her family, and came back. I chose to retire — a forced retirement with fewer benefits.
We each had a conversation with Superintendent Carl Albano. When asked how we were selected out of the eight aides, he said there was no formal criteria, that it was subjective. It should be noted that aide salaries range from $27,000 to $28,500 annually and the board was able to find money for two new positions: a director of technology and administrative services (aka assistant principal?) and a treasurer, and also to write off $85,000 in health insurance premiums that were not collected because of a business office error.
Your support, attendance and public comments at board meetings would be greatly appreciated. It seems like these decisions were not collectively viewed or fully understood. The impact it has on us individually, collectively and, most importantly, on our students and the Garrison community, is paramount.
Barbara Rifenburg-D’Alessio, Garrison