When Pedro Payano, a para assigned to P.S. 205 in the Bronx was fired from his position by Principal Maria Pietrosanti he must have thought that at least the Union would be there to protect his rights.
Boy, was he wrong. Payano's case illustrates just how our Union treats paraprofessionals as second-class citizens.
In order to terminate a tenured teacher most of us know that the Board must serve written charges and, if the teacher so requests, an arbitration is held pursuant to Education Law 3020-a. The hearing offers the teacher an opportunity to cross-examine witness against him and while difficult to appeal, due process is afforded.
Paraprofessionals do not come under the provisions of 3020-a. As non-competitive civil servants the rights against unjust termination are contained in their contract. The para contract provides "the discharge of an employee should be based on good and sufficient reason and that such action should be taken by the supervisor having such authority only after he/she has given due consideration to the matter." Article 23.
Any challenge to a firing must go through the grievance procedure…, step 1, principal; step 2, chancellor; step 3 arbitration. Article 22.
Payano was charged with abandoning a special needs child. He challenged the termination at step 1 and step 2, which was denied. He sought to appeal to step 3, arbitration but the Union denied taking the matter further. Payano was left without any real remedy.
Para terminations are not treated properly by our Union. Unlike 3020-a's when a teacher is represented by a lawyer paras get a teacher. The teachers selected to represent paras at these hearings have little formal training (a couple of weekends at a hotel) and no formal legal background. For the most part they read from scripts prepared by "more experienced" teachers. The hearings can take place long after the para has been fired. In short, totally inadequate representation is provided for these dues paying members.
Payano didn't even get this sham representation which would have cost the Union next to nothing and would have demonstrated that we stand by our members.
We can assure you this would not happen under an Eterno lead UFT.