Without pay for two months, teacher turns to pupil's family for help

Teachers says school owes her about NIS 9,000 before taxes, including travel expenses.

teachers demo 224 88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
teachers demo 224 88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski )
Ora Waismen, a special needs teacher for the Rivka Guber Elementary School in Moshav Nehora, near Kiryat Gat, shows up for work every day. But despite her punctuality and commitment, she has not been paid for two months. Now, after the school attempted to fire her, she is being paid by her student's parents. "They [the school] said, 'OK, we have problems and you won't get your money right now," Waismen, 21, told The Jerusalem Post last week. "Then it became next week, and next week and next week, and then they just didn't say anything." According to Waismen, the school, located in the Lachish Regional Council, owes her about NIS 9,000 before taxes, including travel expenses. Since she is paid by the hour, her paycheck can vary each month. Waismen says that when she actually receives her wages, she makes a "very decent amount of money" for her age and education. Rivka Gruber principal Hadas Perets declined to comment, citing a lack of permission from superiors. But Waismen is not the only teacher living without pay. She claims to know at least two other teachers who have not received their salaries - an art instructor and a gym teacher. In a statement to the Post through an aide, Ronen Rapaport, manager of the Lachish Musnot, the organization responsible for paying some of the regional teachers, said he hoped teachers would be paid before Pessah. He cited no reason for the lack of pay. Teachers paid by the Education Ministry receive their salaries on the first of each month, according to the ministry. Those who should be paid by the regional council - about 5 percent of the total, according to Rapaport - remain unpaid. Other instructors confirmed that they had not been paid, but refused to speak on the record. Waismen expressed unhappiness at the prospect of not being paid until Pessah, as this is when teachers typically receive holiday bonuses. Waismen was hired in October as a special needs teacher on a one-year contract. Now, she spends each day working one-on-one with a mildly autistic child. She shadows him from class to class, ensuring he receives undivided attention and helps with his lessons. "My goal is to help him meet kids and make good friends," she said. While not being paid has left Waismen in a precarious position - she is also studying education in Tel Aviv and has bills to pay - last month, without any warning, the school terminated her employment. "One day I came to work and they said, 'What are you doing here?'" Confused, Waismen replied, "I work here." But when she approached Perets about the matter, she received an unsettling reply. "Oh, Ora, we didn't get to say good-bye," the principal said, according to Waismen. "I was, like, 'What are you talking about?" Waismen said, recounting her utter surprise. But Waismen refused to leave work that day; she says still felt loyalty to her pupil and job. Instead of accepting her dismissal, she approached her student's family and recounted the details of her dismissal. "Both [of the parents] left work and went straight to the head of the regional council," Waismen said. The parents, concerned about their child's welfare and holding sway in the community, were able to save Waismen's job, but not to obtain her paycheck, due to ongoing bureaucratic problems within the council, according to Waismen. Instead, the child's parents had another idea. "They called me and said, 'Don't worry, we'll pay you.'" Thus, out of their own pocket, the family, who requested their names not be published, advanced Waismen an entire month's salary, about NIS 3,000. The child's mother told the Post, "Ora needs to pay for her education. I don't want her to miss her payments because of a bureaucratic problem." The mother said she was confident all the money problems will be worked out very soon. "I'm working on a plan and I cannot just leave the kid because they have mistakes and no money," Waismen said. "He [the pupil] shouldn't have to be involved in this. You can't just leave him one day - he needs preparation," she said. Waismen says she now needs more money but is embarrassed to approach the family. "It's been another month and they [the school] haven't paid me," Waismen said. "I don't want to go to [the family] because I feel bad." Waismen intends to leave the Guber School when her contract ends in three months. When asked if she was worried about speaking about her situation to a newspaper, Waismen was defiant. "I'm not afraid," she said. "I have the full backing of the parents... Also, I'm telling the truth. They [the school and Regional Musnot] should be ashamed, not me." While she admitted that other instructors might be afraid to come forward about this problem, she was not. "It's a whole political situation inside the school and with the families," she said.