The new head of the East Aurora teachers union is asking why the district chose to terminate two full-time teachers who declined district offers of part-time positions in June, instead of placing them on a preferred eligibility list, to be returned to their jobs during better fiscal times.
Larry Grisanti, president of the East Aurora Faculty Association, pressed the administration for answers last Wednesday, before the School Board voted on resolutions terminating high school science teacher Andrea M. Panczykowski and high school social studies teacher Stephanie L. Parobek.
"No other district does mandatory resignation for teachers being reduced. This is a new practice," Grisanti said. "It's new for East Aurora. They didn't do it last year prior to June of 2012. No other school districts are attempting this, according to my New York State United Teachers representative."
The administration did not answer Grisanti publicly during the board meeting.
However, Peter Aiello, a relative of Panczykowski's, asked what was going on with the resolution, which led to the termination of her job. Panczykowski attended the board meeting but did not speak.
Board President Daniel Brunson replied: "The resolution speaks for itself."
Brunson suggested that Aiello discuss the issue privately with Superintendent Brian Russ, who declined to discuss the matter after the meeting.
Before the board voted on the two resolutions - labeled "instructional resignations" - board member MaryBeth Covert asked that the items be pulled from the agenda, along with another personnel-related matter. The board met behind closed doors for one hour before re-entering public session and voting unanimously to adopt the resolutions.
Grisanti said his understanding of the issue is that the district had been urging the two teachers to resign and that if they submitted a letter of resignation, they would lose their eligibility to be called back.
"The wording was pretty vague," Grisanti said. "The original wording in the board agenda [earlier in the week] was changed. It had mentioned that [Panczykowski] resigned. She said she never resigned. The district then changed the resolution to say 'no longer works for the district' but under the heading of instructional resignations."
In Panczykowski's case, the district reduced her full-time science teacher position to a 0.4 full-time equivalent, telling her that was the only position available to her in the district. She rejected the offer to go to part-time, however.
Parobek's full-time social studies teaching post was reduced to a 0.2 full-time equivalent, and she also was told that was the only available position. Parobek rejected the part-time assignment.
"Rejecting is not the same as resigning, according to us," Grisanti said.
"Education law for this topic is somewhat vague, and I think [the district] is trying to find loopholes. If they're trying to get out of paying unemployment, it doesn't make sense for one or two people. It's not like they're laying off 100 people."