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May 6, 2015 12:27 PMPublication: The Southampton Press

East Quogue Superintendent Resigns; Board Announces Budget Cuts

East Quogue Superintendent Les Black.
May 6, 2015 1:24 PM

Amid heavy criticism from parents for the school district’s dire financial standing, East Quogue Superintendent Les Black has opted to resign, effective next week.

The East Quogue Board of Education accepted Mr. Black’s resignation during a special meeting Tuesday night and appointed Principal Robert Long as interim superintendent, effective Wednesday, May 15, Mr. Black’s final day.

Following the special meeting, the board held a budget presentation to finalize the cuts that will be made to keep next year’s school budget at $23 million and under the state-mandated cap on the tax levy. Those cuts include laying off a general education teacher, a teaching assistant and a part-time psychologist, among other reductions.

Mr. Black did not attend Tuesday night’s meeting. It was the second consecutive meeting that he did not attend; school officials had previously declined to explain his absences.

When approached after the meeting, School Board President Kathryn Tureski declined to say if Mr. Black gave a reason for his departure. “We don’t discuss personnel matters,” she said.

On the same grounds, Ms. Tureski declined to discuss whether her board would seek a replacement for Mr. Black or, as some parents have suggested in recent weeks, make Mr. Long the single-school district’s principal and superintendent, as is the case in other smaller local districts, including Quogue and Remsenburg-Speonk. “We’re still working on what we’re going to do, so that’s a personnel matter as well,” she said.

The district’s itemized budget, which was made available at the meeting, still includes a $55,000 line item for a superintendent’s salary.

The budget will be supported by a $20.5 million tax levy that will result in an estimated tax rate of $11.725 per $1,000 of assessed value. If the estimate holds true, the average district resident with a home valued at $500,000 would pay $5,862.50 in school taxes next year.

Mr. Black has been employed by the district as a part-time superintendent since 2008 and works on a year-to-year contact, the most recent of which expires on June 30. He will not be paid for the final month and a half of his current contract once he leaves, East Quogue District Clerk Lenore Rezza said Wednesday morning.

A retired superintendent from the Brentwood School District, Mr. Black worked two days a week in East Quogue, most recently Tuesdays and Thursdays. He received no benefits from the district and is not in East Quogue’s retirement system, Ms. Rezza said.

During the weeks leading up to the announcement of his resignation, Mr. Black did not return several calls from The Press seeking comment about parents calling for him to step down.

Mr. Black came under fire in recent weeks for first proposing that the district attempt to pierce the state-mandated tax cap and then, at the following meeting, rolling out a series of cuts, only to have the School Board backpedal on those suggestions a week later. This comes on the heels of a failed attempt at piercing the cap and a last-minute bailout from Albany, respectively, during the past two budget cycles.

Mr. Black proposed laying off a general education teacher, a reading teacher, three teaching assistants and a part-time psychologist, and reducing a special education teacher and a speech teacher from full time to part time. He also said the district would have to cut its late bus service to Westhampton Beach, where the district sends its middle- and high-school-age students.

After thoroughly combing through the budget and getting the help of a $60,000 reduction in transportation costs, thanks to a special discount given by the Montauk Bus Company, the district was able to save the special education teacher, two teaching assistants, the reading teacher on a part-time basis, and the late bus service to Westhampton Beach. The total transportation budget will decrease from $1.39 million this year to $1.33 million next year.

Mr. Long described the other cuts as being “professionally and personally heartbreaking.” He added that he is working with the Eastern Suffolk Board of Cooperative Educational Services to find positions for those teachers and assistants who will be laid off.

Mr. Long said the downsizing was necessary because of a state mandate requiring the district to hire more English as a Second Language teachers, increasing retirement costs and the rising price of tuition to the Westhampton Beach School District. Specifically, he said an unexpected $350,000 in tuition bill that the district had to pay to Westhampton Beach earlier this year put the district in a financial bind.

“I’m not looking to place blame or scapegoat anyone, but when you have to pay an additional $350,000 that you weren’t expecting to pay, that certainly gives you a kick in the pants when you’re trying to put a budget together,” Mr. Long said.

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He's been getting a pension of over $191,000 per year since retiring from Brentwood in 2006. You would think he would have volunteered his time in E. Quogue instead of pigging out on a $55,000 a year salary for working only 2 days a week, and he will be collecting a pension on that salary as well. Incidentally, he makes an estimated $85.00 an hour for this part time job. Sick of these double-dipping hogs. But wait: it's all for the kids!!
By Babyboo (293), Hampton Bays on May 6, 15 6:50 PM
Getting a pension that you rightfully earned does not preclude him from earning more money. I'm not sure why you think he should work for nothing, and the article says he is not in the EQ retirement system on what he makes. It's not a huge salary for a retired supt.
By lamm (304), Southampton on May 6, 15 9:17 PM
1 member liked this comment
Spoken like a true union goon.
By Babyboo (293), Hampton Bays on May 7, 15 7:44 AM
I'm union and we fight for our benefits and whatever else we have. Jealous of what union goons have and get Babyboo?! get a job that has union backing! Until them, don't knock what we fight for!
By Jaws (245), Amity Island on May 7, 15 2:09 PM
Rightfully earned; a pension of almost $200 grand, its excessive -what was his salary, I would guess larger than all the Governor's in the US, Supreme Court Justices, etc.
By bayarea (46), hampton bays on May 7, 15 8:15 PM
What would prompt Montauk bus service to offer a $60,000 reduction in transportation costs? That's very generous of them.
By brwest (3), Remsenburg on May 6, 15 10:52 PM
I hope these educators aren't teaching the kids about finance!
By lirider (288), Westhampton Beach on May 6, 15 11:26 PM
191k a year tax free from the taxpayers is disgusting. It's all for the kids..... suckers
By chief1 (2800), southampton on May 6, 15 11:35 PM
1 member liked this comment
Baby boo, you're living in a dream world.
By BaymenNYC (59), Manhattan on May 7, 15 11:33 AM
Lamm you complain about your high taxes in Tuckahoe. Do you think it might be because of high salaries?
By chief1 (2800), southampton on May 7, 15 2:03 PM
Well I'm glad they are forced to hire more English as a second language teachers. Special Ed students and children that need help in reading suffer. Glad the state has the illegals back. What happens when the illegals out number the taxpayers.
By Mary216 (24), Clemmons on May 7, 15 2:09 PM
2 members liked this comment
is that his real hair?
By xtiego (698), bridgehampton on May 7, 15 6:12 PM
Chief, as much as you LOVE to go after me, you can't say that I complain about high taxes, in fact, I've said several times that even our Tuckahoe taxes are lower than most of long island. The common bond between Tuckahoe and East Quogue is the crazy high tuition we pay to local high schools. The difference is that East Quogue students receive a better quality high school education than Tuckahoe students currently receive in Southampton.
By lamm (304), Southampton on May 10, 15 10:33 PM