Education Council approves immunization mandate for school staff

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GREENWICH, CT – The Greenwich Board of Education unanimously approved a mandate to vaccinate district employees last week after a controversial meeting and public hearing.

The mandate states that staff must be vaccinated or undergo weekly tests for COVID-19. For those who refuse these two measures, a progressive discipline will be established. Employees will not be paid a salary for each day they fail to resolve the issue.

The district will send reminders until the fifth day at which point the employee will be considered “non-compliant” and the termination will take effect. Employees can request religious or medical exemptions. The superintendent of schools, Dr Toni Jones, said other districts have varying durations of progressive discipline.

The school district was to have a policy in place by September 27. Vice-chairman Kathleen Stowe said the policy was designed to be “a little more flexible, especially as the executive orders keep changing so we can stop reviewing it.”

Board member Karen Kowalski was concerned the tenure could lead to a shortage of teachers in the classroom.

“It’s not just the teachers. It’s all district employees. So we can have a bus driver. [issues], we may have custody issues. Right now, we don’t see this based on the number of submissions our nurses receive. We think [participation is] is going to be very high, ”Jones said.

Council member Peter Sherr said he had heard no objections from the teachers’ unions.

“I don’t worry about our employees as they are represented by very powerful and well-funded national unions with big lobbying organizations. If they don’t complain, then I guess that means all members grassroots unions agree with that, and their leadership represents that, ”Sherr said.

The city’s legal department has reviewed the policy and has given Council the green light to approve it.

Kowalski said the warrant made her uncomfortable, but supported it because the district needed to have one by order of the state. Board member Joe Kelly also said he had concerns.

Along with Sherr, Kowalski hoped the Council would reconsider policy if and when state decrees changed.

The board voted on the policy following an hour-long public hearing in which passionate comments from community members took place. The chairman of the board, Peter Bernstein, had to remind the public several times not to disturb or shout.

Mariana Begonja, a Greenwich resident and former school district employee, told the council the vaccine’s mandate was “your policy, not health and safety.”

“You raise state and federal funds on the condition that you do everything you can to intimidate us and deprive us of our medical rights and freedoms. You are also paid to indoctrinate our children,” she said.

Begonja cried as she spoke of the financial burden she thinks the weekly testing could have on staff.

“Bullying tactics, withholding wages for non-compliance, weekly testing, even with a medical exemption, which can cost up to $ 200 per test not covered by insurance and no reimbursement … Don’t fire us, you’re just not paying us until we comply and you make sure it affects us financially with weekly testing. Carrying out any aspect of this mandate is illegal and inhumane, ”he said. she declared.

Ahead of the vote, Jones stressed that testing would be free for employees at all state-designated testing sites. Places like Walgreens or CVS could start charging week after week, she said, adding that there had been communication with staff on where to go for testing.

Several members of the Greenwich Patriots group, who protested against vaccinations, masking and the school program in Greenwich, spoke at the public hearing.

Laura Kostin, Democratic candidate for the Board of Education, spoke as a parent and individual at the hearing and addressed the Patriots.

“You don’t want to wear a mask or get vaccinated, you have that freedom. But we are a nation of laws, even if you don’t like them. Rest assured, Patriots, you’ve been heard. have received over and over again is not your imagination. But like a rejected lover who won’t take a no for an answer, you think that by repeating the same song on a mixtape, the scene you are rehearsing is in some way. less scary sort, “Kostin said.

She congratulated the board of directors for the work they have done on COVID-19.

“We want to stay open, we don’t want our teachers to be sick, we don’t want our children to be sick, even if there is just a small chance that they will die. We want competent managers who adhere to best health and safety practices, ”says Kostin. “The list of speakers here tonight may be dominated by the Patriots, but it’s a small list, and the rest of our 9,000 students and staff thank you for your efforts.”

To view the full Education Council meeting, click here. The public hearing begins at 19 minutes.


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