A New York Assemblyman says he is sick to his stomach if reports are true that the Utica teachers union turned down about $2.5 million in grants for teacher training and development.

In an article by The Utica Observer-Dispatch's Keshia Clukey  the President of the Utica Teachers' Association, Cherie Grant, is reported to have not agreed to one grant that was due in July because it was "incomplete" when it was presented to her.  A second grant, due earlier this month, was not signed off on because she said the financial benefit of the grant would only have been temporary.  Clukey quotes Grant as saying, "Longitudinally I didn't see enough benefit for my members, and quite frankly the bottom line regarding layoffs is that until the state adequately funds school districts like Utica, I don't believe that grants can make up the difference or fill the void...That's on the state."

Those comments are not sitting well with School Board President Christopher Salatino, who spoke with WIBX First News with Keeler in the Morning to express his outrage over the fact that the grants were not applied for despite the fact that funding sources from the state have dried up.  He says that the grant would have given some of the teachers that had been laid off a chance to return to work, if even only for the time being.  He says you do not turn away millions of dollars.
Photo: Kristine Bellino, WIBX
Photo: Kristine Bellino, WIBX
He says the explanation in the paper "...didn't exactly match up to what was given to us in writing."  He says simply, "We needed the money."  The grants could have put teachers back to work for two years, and he says that the state was working with the district to move forward toward the next phase of the granting process.  He says that he also cannot imagine that the union's rank and file would have turned down the grant.

Assemblyman Anthony Brindisi, joined WIBX First News with Keeler in the Morning to talk about a forum on pets, but then weighted in on the school funding debate.
Brindisi, whose  whose son is a public school student in the Utica City School District, says, that during his time as a member of the Utica City School Board they never had an issue with the teachers' union turning down funding, and historically the board and union have worked together to secure funding for the district.
After seeing the report Brindisi said, "I am sick to my stomach....To say you're going to deny sixteen more teachers to the Utica Schools, who are desperate right now...., to say we're not going to hire sixteen more teachers because we're not sure of the end date of a contract...that doesn't make sense to me..."  He said that there are ways to extend contracts and grants, and not applying for the grants is not just by any account.

WIBX has spoken with union vice president, Mary Widomski, who would not offer an official comment and referred us to union president Cherie Grant.  Messages left for Grant have not yet been returned as of this posting, possibly because of scheduling.

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