The Teacher’s Association of Prospect Park (TAPP) has been working under an expired contract since the start of the 2019-2020 school year. Even so, they turned out en masse at the most recent Board of Education meeting, along with numerous parents from the community, to advocate for their students. At issue was the district’s regular and ongoing use of special education teachers who are being pulled from their teaching assignments to serve as substitutes for teachers in other classrooms. Members of the TAPP reminded the Board of Education that the district has a legal obligation to ensure that special education students receive academic support services from their assigned teachers as indicated in their Individualized Education Program (IEP).
Members of the Board of Education indicated that they were having difficulty hiring substitutes, and suggested that using a certificated teacher was therefore an acceptable alternative. The TAPP responded that the substitute shortage was due, in large part, to the lower pay offered in Prospect Park, when compared to other districts.
To address the problem, a proposal was introduced by the district Superintendent, Allison Angermeyer. The proposal called for the district to increase the daily substitute stipend by $15 for substitutes without a teaching certificate, and $30 for those with a teaching certificate, in order to attract more skilled applicants. The Board refused to differentiate between the two groups, and instead chose to table the vote by a margin of 4 to 1, instead of voting on an outcome.
This prompted Liliana Baumzweig, School Psychologist and Teacher of the Year, to address the Board.
“Our Special Ed teachers are being pulled to substitute. One of the reasons is because we are not getting subs coming into the building. The Superintendent, Mrs. Angermeyer, put something on the agenda today to try and resolve that problem. The fact that you tabled this issue over $15, I really don’t have words. And I don’t see anything else on the agenda that addresses the issue that we brought up last month.” Ms. Baumzweig proceed to ask the Board whether or not they have another solution to the issue, other than what Mrs. Angermeyer brought to the table this evening. They did not. Baumzweig further stated that “One teacher this week was pulled four of the five days [to substitute].”
The TAPP, along with parents who attended the meeting, reminded the Board that there were legal and ethical considerations that were being ignored; among them, certificated teachers are highly trained experts, who must not be kept from fulfilling their legal responsibilities to their students while being used as regular substitutes to save the district $15 per day.
After numerous teachers and parents loudly voiced their opposition against the district’s practice of using certificated staff members as substitute teachers, the Board adjourned into executive session, returning a short time after with an announcement that they had voted to overturn their original decision to table their vote. The Board proceeded to unanimously approve the increases in substitute pay.