Members of the Hempstead Classroom Teachers Association have been rallying with staff, students, and retirees, to demand increased wages as they lined up outside Hempstead School District headquarters.
The picketers have been regularly gathering outside the administration offices on Peninsula Boulevard to urge the Board of Education and Interim Superintendent Regina Armstrong to come to some sort of agreement that would align teachers’ salaries in Hempstead with teacher salaries across the country. Members of the teachers union have not had a wage increase since 2010 and their contracts expired in 2013.
“Eleven years and the teacher’s salary has not changed,” Nicole Brown, president of the teachers union and fifth grade teacher at Jackson Annex School in Hempstead, told the Press. She said the teachers are the lowest paid in Nassau County.
“You would think during the coronavirus pandemic our contracts would be restructured but nothing changed,” she added. “Promises were given to many of our teachers across the school districts but those promises were broken and with our superintendent receiving a huge raise, but then telling us there isn’t enough money, is one of the main reasons we’re standing here today. You cannot put students first if you put educators last.”
When also expressing the frustration of teachers within the Hempstead community, Steve Izzo, a special education teacher and member of the HCTA, stated, “From teachers having to teach in classrooms, to teaching at home and some days having to teach both at the same time, was extremely exhausting. “Could you imagine working in the classroom and at the same time teaching through a screen? We do it because we love the kids but it gets exhausting.”
In addition, teachers were not reimbursed for their expenses, Izzo told the Press.
As rush hour approached, teachers held up their signs, which said, “Everyone else got a raise, why not us?,” “Teacher contract now! Stop stalling,” “Teachers don’t need apples, we need a fair living salary.”
Vehicles passed by, showing support for teachers by honking their horns, with people saying, “We support you!”
Many teachers during the pandemic risked their own health and safety teaching in classrooms, bringing schoolwork and resources to those students who did not have the necessary technology or Wi-Fi to participate in online classes. The HCTA, which started the rallies in May, planned to continue picketing until the district begins negotiations.