DOE cuts leave their mark


| bdoda@queenscourier.com |

For Gary Haberski, reporting for his six-hour shift each weekday at Bayside High School was not only a delight, but his daily workout.

“I used to walk to school every day since I only live two miles away,” said Haberski, 62, of Whitestone, one of 700 Department of Education (DOE) employees let go recently. “I would go back tomorrow if I could.”

With the largest number of layoffs at one time in the city during the Bloomberg Administration, teacher aides and support staff have officially been cut in an effort to save $35 million, according to DOE officials.

This is the second time Haberski has been laid off by the DOE, last time spending 11-months on a recall list. Although prepared with a letter explaining a possible lay-off in September, the pink slip letter that came on October 7 prompted him to call all of his elected officials in outrage.

“The first time, I was upset and depressed,” said Haberski, a lifelong Queens resident. “Now, I’m just mad.”

School aides and support staff have many roles in schools including monitoring hallways, creating a more secure environment, observing during SAT and other test taking as well as other functions. It’s those day-to-day interactions with students that he misses the most.

“You establish relationships with the kids. You see them every day and learn what they want to do with their lives. I miss all that,” said Haberski.

Since being put back on the recall list, Haberski has filed for unemployment and is currently looking into food stamps as a money-saving option. He was one of three aides to be laid-off at Bayside High School, each of them in their 60s as well.

“We are hoping they are going to call us back quicker,” said Haberski. “There are not many jobs out there to begin with, especially for a 62 year old. It’s a waiting game.”

The decision to make cuts occurred as a result of failed negotiations between DC 37, the city’s largest municipal public employee union, and the DOE. DC 37 believes the cuts will affect lower income areas the most.