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Apr 5, 2012 5:21 PMPublication: The East Hampton Press

Springs School Will Cut Teacher Positions To Stay Under Tax Cap

Apr 10, 2012 3:41 PM

The Springs School District is considering laying off four teachers and two teaching assistants, as well as eliminating some extracurricular programs next year to make sure its 2012-13 budget complies with a New York State-imposed 2-percent tax levy cap.

The School Board voted not to pierce the tax levy cap at a budget work session last Wednesday. The board then deliberated over a list of 25 academic programs in an attempt to reach a consensus over whether it should cut programs entirely, fund them partially or keep them in place next year.

“This is going to be very emotional for everyone,” warned School Board President Kathee Burke Gonzalez before going down the list. “No amount of School Board training prepares you for this moment.”

The fiercest debate centered on whether the district should adopt a departmentalized middle school model for its sixth grade classes. That would result in the laying off of three teachers while saving $200,000. Almost all the School Board members voted in favor of the model, except Timothy Frazier, who is also the principal of the Southampton Intermediate School.

“This will tear apart this school by doing this model …” Mr. Frazier said. “You’re taking teachers out of their certification area, sixth grade down to elementary, taking teachers, well respected and getting rid of them.”

Other cuts board members agreed to would eliminate two full-time teaching assistants in the first grade, lay off one English as a Second Language teacher and replace the position with a lower salaried employee and cut funding for extracurricular activities in half, from $70,000 to $35,000. They also agreed to go from a nine-period day to an eight-period day, which would force four full-time middle school teachers into part-time status.

No board members were in favor of piercing the tax levy cap.

“I think that we’ve been in a protracted recession and that our community has always been very generous to the school and I think that folks are struggling,” said Ms. Burke Gonzalez.

Mr. Frazier delivered an impassioned plea in an effort to sway other board members’ minds against adopting the middle school model for sixth grade. He suggested making other cuts instead, including cutting two teaching assistants in kindergarten, opting to go for a part-time library media specialist instead of a full-time employee and other program cuts. “I’m telling you, the students are going to get harmed in a way that’s going to change the dynamics of the school,” he said.

But Vice President John B. Grant and Ms. Burke Gonzalez disagreed. Mr. Grant said he didn’t see a way of achieving cuts to comply with the tax cap without reducing staff. He said on his priority list it’s “students first, taxpayer second and staff third.”

Superintendent Michael Hartner said the board’s decisions on the sixth grade middle school model and the eight-period day aren’t final yet. Board members plan to discuss Mr. Frazier’s concerns in coming weeks, he said.

Last Friday, Mr. Hartner explained the reasoning behind the middle school model for the sixth grade. He pointed out that the current elementary school model, in which one teacher teaches all the main subject areas— instead of the middle school model, in which students are taught by teachers with specialized training in those subjects— is a “vestige of the late 1960s.” Academic requirements now are much more demanding and the world is a different place, he added. Mr. Hartner said most sixth grade classes in New York follow the middle school model.

He also added that it’s likely any staff that would get cut this year could be hired back because he anticipates a number of teachers will be retiring in the near future.

Board members also agreed to eliminate a stipend for the Science Olympiad competition and halve the amount spent on educational field trips from $30,000 to $15,000. The board also agreed to get rid of $40,000 in funding for Project MOST, an after-school program.

On the subject of Project MOST, board member Teresa Schurr voted to continue funding the program, which she said is valuable to the school. “It’s not a lot of money for what that program brings to the school,” she said.

Mr. Grant, however, said he couldn’t support it. “We’re laying off teachers,” he said. “We’re laying off staff. I’m making decisions about people I know and care about and work with and I just can’t support something that’s outside of the school day at this point.”

District Treasurer Colleen Card delivered a final presentation on tax levy limit figures at the start of the meeting. According to Ms. Card, the district’s 2012-13 school spending is limited to $24.6 million, about $200,000 less than the current budget of $24.8 million.

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Are the teachers getting raises as well as "step"???? Maybe they should give back some of the personal/sick days or raises so others could keep their positions, just like Bridgehampton teachers did.
By powerwalker (52), Southampton on Apr 5, 12 10:42 PM
3 members liked this comment
I would hope that all the employees in this school have given up any raises for the 2012-2013 school year. Before layoffs, it would be the the right thing to do. How about paying more more health care, etc.? The goal is everyone maintains their jobs in these tough economic times. In the future when the economy turns around you can revisit some of these items. There are many things the employees can do if they pull together.
By crusader (391), East Quogue on Apr 6, 12 6:47 AM
2 members liked this comment
These cuts are not because of "tough economic" times they are a direct result of governor Cuomo's short-sighted, ill-conceived tax cap. Our school budgets were already subject to voter approval and the voters, more often than not, approved them. If they did not, schools were forced to come up with a new budget or stick with the one from the previous year. The system worked fine and the budget control was in the hands if the voters. Cutting teachers is NOT the solution to America's education problems ...more
By progressnow (556), sag harbor on Apr 6, 12 7:22 AM
3 members liked this comment
The 2 % tax cap is a soft tyranny instituted Cuomo and all the politicians who are using it to feed the hunger of a faction of voters who spew hate and envy towards teachers and other public employees. I don't even understand how the tax cap is legal as there was already a democratic system in place, in that a community could already vote down a budget. Springs school will NOT be a better school as a result of these cuts. I am very concerned for the future of my children's school, and also deeply ...more
By louse pt. (143), springs on Apr 6, 12 9:10 AM
3 members liked this comment
All these cuts are absolutely going to affect the children, how the Board is able to justify their decisions are beyond me! The icing on the cake is how they were able to eliminate a new mother's position. I hope the Board is able to sleep at night!
By bonac79 (18), East Hampton on Apr 6, 12 11:11 AM
2 members liked this comment
I hope all the teachers making over $100 thousand a year for a part time job (no summer work), getting $20 thousand a year medica lifetimel benefits for their families even after retirement, and still getting 2.5 percent "step" increases can sleep at night! Cuomo had to do something to balance the enormous power of the teachers unions. What he really should have done was taken on the unions directly, to eliminate tenure so talented young teachers don't always get the short end of the stick, and ...more
By jperrier (53), Springs on Apr 7, 12 11:31 AM
3 members liked this comment
By referring to education as a "part time" profession, you show that you do not value its merits. Remember that unions were only created so that people could not take advantage of workers, as was done so often during the industrial revolution and throughout world history. Have unions in some cases become too powerful, yes, but they exist for a reason.
By louse pt. (143), springs on Apr 7, 12 1:47 PM
1 member liked this comment
Just saying that if you work tne months a year, it's a part time job, and the equivalent annual compensation is 20 percent higher than reported. I would have no problem if teacher comp maxed out at $80 thousand per year, and the superintendent shouldnt make more than $150 per year ($200 or more is ridiculous)r. The problem isn't the pay scale in the early years. It's the tenure based, seniority based union contracts with NY state guidelines that wind up paying highly tenured teachers too much, ...more
By jperrier (53), Springs on Apr 7, 12 3:25 PM
Professions are not paid based upon their hours. They are paid by their importance and the requirements needed to garner those careers. Teaching is a very important job, and it requires a college degree, plus a masters. Teachers in this area, Long Island and metro NYC make respectable professional incomes. Are they hurting financially, probably not. I wouldn't say they are "rich" either. If you find teaching to be such a great job, my only suggestion for you, is to become a teacher.
By louse pt. (143), springs on Apr 7, 12 5:43 PM
1 member liked this comment
A perfect rebuttal, loust pt. but you will not have much look getting through to folks who look down upon education.
By peoplefirst (787), Southampton on Apr 7, 12 6:33 PM
I'd become a teacher, but can't due to tenured teachers and seniority based hiring. There are hundreds of applications for every open teacher position. Lots of talented low tenure teachers willing to do the job for less. The problem is union based seniority based hiring and pay scales. And please stop saying I don't value education. I do. I have four kids in the EH school system, and the reason I care is because I see teacher and administrator compensation squeezing out the ability of school ...more
By jperrier (53), Springs on Apr 8, 12 8:59 AM
2 members liked this comment
Springs is broke because it does not have commercial real-estate, and its student population has risen heavily over the past 5 years, without an increase in development or tax revenue.
By louse pt. (143), springs on Apr 8, 12 10:21 AM
1 member liked this comment
Agreed. Lots of illegal housing down there as well. 4 families crowded into one house. You also need bilingual teachers which are normally more expensive
By razza5350 (1911), East Hampton on Apr 10, 12 3:37 PM
Agreed. Plus Springs has none of the big south of the highway estates like EH and Amagansett.
By jperrier (53), Springs on Apr 8, 12 11:16 AM
Plus a LARGE population of illegals living 2 or 3 families per home. The taxes on that one house would cover 2, 3 or 4 kids, but when 7 or 8 kids go to school on the taxes of one house, the system becomes top heavy. Basic math people, basic math!
By bigfresh (4666), north sea on Apr 9, 12 6:01 PM
How many kids in Springs have illegal aliens as parents? Why has the student population risen so high?
By TianaBob (256), S.Jamesport on Apr 9, 12 6:49 PM
It would be hard to figure that out, but it wouldn't matter because public schools are required by law to educate all children who live within the district., so long as they register for school.
By louse pt. (143), springs on Apr 9, 12 7:48 PM
What it all boils down to is this - most of the "educational" decisionmakers at the federal, state, and local levels have had little to no experience in teaching in a regular classroom. As a result, the decisions made may look wonderful on paper, but would be disasterous if implemented in a real school setting. Think of it this way - Who would want a person just out of med. school to perform brain surgery on a loved one? Our country would be in dire straits if a recent boot camp graduate would ...more
By hamptonite (26), hamptons on Apr 9, 12 8:09 PM
You are absolutely 100% correct! Politicians, fed and state level, along with board members all having no experience in the classroom, yet then somehow qualified to be experts in the decision making process. I can't think of another field in which this is true.
By louse pt. (143), springs on Apr 9, 12 8:56 PM
Sounds like your average hieriarchical, aristocratic, hubris laden structure...
Apr 9, 12 9:51 PM appended by Mr. Z
Ooopsie, lose the "i". Or maybe it was a Fruedian keyslip...
By Mr. Z (11847), North Sea on Apr 9, 12 9:51 PM
While I respect our teachers tremendously, the pay increases and step increases are not realistic in this economy. Yes, we do get the opportunity to vote on the budgets, but we don't get the opportunity to vote on teacher contracts. As a result, we go to a budget vote with the full knowledge that if we don't vote yes, it's the kids that lose programs and the kids who have to deal with larger class sizes and other cuts while teacher salaries, increases and steps, health insurance, and pensions ...more
By teachourkids (36), southampton on Apr 15, 12 12:30 AM
1 member liked this comment