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Wyandanch school district security guards say they fear for their jobs

Wyandanch Memorial High School is seen on Thursday,

Wyandanch Memorial High School is seen on Thursday, May 31, 2019. Credit: Danielle Silverman

School security guards in the Wyandanch district said this week that they had been threatened with layoffs, continuing a pattern of unstable labor relations that has troubled the 2,800-student district for several years.

The latest confrontation surfaced at a March 17 board meeting, with a notice on the agenda that district officials were considering the option of outsourcing security work to a private firm. Robert Bryant, chief of the union representing Wyandanch’s security guards, said Wednesday that the agenda announcement came as a surprise, and that he had not yet been able to schedule a meeting with district representatives despite his group’s willingness to be flexible in contract negotiations.

"Any dispute couldn’t be on our part, because we’ve dropped from 26 security guards to 11 guards in recent years, and our overtime has been very, very minimal," Bryant said.

The district’s superintendent, Gina Talbert, later issued a statement that "as this is a matter regarding negotiations, the district will have no comment at this time."

In June 2019, Wyandanch announced planned layoffs affecting scores of administrators, teachers, guards and other workers, after local residents rejected proposed budgets in two consecutive votes and forced the district to impose a tax freeze. Bryant himself lost his security job temporarily at the time but was later called back.

The union leader added that a majority of current guards have been employed by Wyandanch for periods of 10 to 18 years, and that recent talk of outsourcing has lowered their morale. "They feel disrespected," he said.

In November, after two years of operating in the red, Wyandanch’s finances took a positive turn, when a state-appointed fiscal monitor for the district, Albert Chase, reported that the system expected to show an operating surplus.

More recently, Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has announced that Wyandanch will receive $5,239,000 as its share of the latest financial stimulus package from Washington. A federal formula drives most money from the package to districts serving large numbers of students living below the poverty line.

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