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S. Huntington May Salvage Some Cut Programs

Talks with teachers' union could halt plan to cut middle school sports and other programs.

The South Huntington school board said Tuesday night that it is negotiating with the teachers union for savings that could halt planned cuts in several programs, including middle school sports.

Superintendent Thomas Shea that negotiations could mean funds "could be reallocated" before the budget goes to voters on May 15.

The board had voted on April 4 to make several cuts, including reducing kindergarten to half days and to eliminate the entire middle school sports program and replace it with intramural sports. The sports cut was expected to save about $120,000.

Faced with a state tax cap and concern about voter reaction, members of the board expressed their dissatisfaction and frustration but concluded they had no choice but to cut the programs. Board members Lisa Brieff and Linda LaCara ultimately voted against the budget as presented because of the loss of the sports program and several speakers, including middle-school athletes, pleaded to retain the program.

 Shea and board president Jim Kaden both said a deal with the teachers could be reached and presented at the next board meeting on May 8.

No further details were immediately available on what those negotiations might involve.

The district also unveiled images of its redesignd website, which is expected to go live Thursday. The revised site offers considerably more highlights about student activities, improved calendars, contacts with teachers and other staffers and more information about schools.

Kathy April 26, 2012 at 07:24 PM
What you don't seem to get Joe, is that in the private sector the people are paid what they are worth. It is none of anyone's business how hard they work or how much they get paid. If they are productive and making money for the company they work for that is all that matters. The public sector works for us, the taxpayers, and they need to be accountable to us. They cannot get paid more than the majority of people who pay them. That is a model that simply is unsustainable. It used to be that public servants were paid far less than the private sector, but the benefits and job security made it attractive for some people to choose that path. Now, the public sector is making as much or in many cases more than the private sector and they have the best benefits, pensions, health care plans and job security. This is certainly true of teachers and is unsustainable.
Kathy April 26, 2012 at 07:31 PM
It benefits everyone when kids are grouped by ability. They can move at a pace that is appropriate for them and get the necessary attention and they wouldn't have to struggle to keep up or be bored by going too slow. There is absolutely nothing wrong with that. What is wrong is putting kids in classes with kids that they cannot keep up with. It is much more challenging for the teacher and they should not be judged on this system. No one benefits from this. The kids who can't keep up are constantly struggling, not to mention the low self esteem that is inevitible when you are placed in a situation where other kids seem to grasp the work quicker. It would be much better for everyone if kids were grouped by ability. The teachers could teach at an appropriate pace and the kids would feel like they fit in better with other kids of similar ablility.
Kathy April 26, 2012 at 07:39 PM
Private schools charge tuition based on competition with other private schools. You will find that, for the most part, the tuitions of similar schools are around the same. Then they come up with a budget based on the tuition collected and pay their teachers what they can afford to pay them. Many private schools do not participate in state testing and the teachers are actually free to teach. Teachers are held accountable for their results based on administrative monitoring as well as parental and student input. Let's be frank here, when there is a bad teacher, everyone knows it and the parents in the know will request that their child not be placed in that teacher's class. The difference between public and private schools is that in private school that teacher will most likely be mentored and given a chance to improve and ultimately be fired if they don't. In public school, they will have a job forever.
Kathy April 26, 2012 at 07:42 PM
Amen RW..which is why I think they are trying to crash the system the cowardly way with the 2% cap. This way they can't be blamed when the union is forced to give back. It's the only way, politically speaking, that this can be done. Politics is a filthy dirty game.
Jaimie April 26, 2012 at 07:51 PM
Insightful- particularly about them not being required to abide by state testing, as I never knew that. I'll only add that I am sure that all of the private schools around here have very healthy endowments and donation programs that contribute a lot of resources for them to use however they want (services, equipment, staff salaries, etc.)- tuition can only be a component of the overall nut they have to spend. But I would agree that they have greater flexibility in making staff changes (which I would guess is, in large part, due to them not being unionzed).
Kathy April 26, 2012 at 07:52 PM
Diane....this mixed grouping came about because politicians theorized that if kids with lower test scores were put into the same class with higher performing kids, the lower performing kids would strive to be better students. They totally disregarded the fact that not everyone can achieve the same level. So this model just made those lower performing kids feel bad that they weren't as good as the other kids and they mostly sit back and just try to make it through. However, if they were in a class with other kids of similar ability, they would not feel inferior and would get more out of class. They would not be afraid to ask questions for fear of looking "dumb" and the teacher could teach at a pace more appropriate to each group. I don't think of one group being better than another, I look at is as a more individualized and customized approach to learning. Isn't that better for everyone? There is nothing wrong with this kind of grouping...it is done every day in the private sector. If your kids join a private (fillin the blank) class (ie dance, art, music, sports etc) aren't they grouped by ability (ie beginner, intermediate, advanced)? If a beginning musician was placed in an advanced music class they would most likely feel lost and inferior. The same goes for education.
Kathy April 26, 2012 at 07:58 PM
The reason private school teachers choose private school over public school, despite the lower salary and benefits, is the freedom to really teach and not just "teach to the test." They are also given little perks like a lower teaching load so that they have more in-school time for class preparation and test/homework grading etc. But they have to do their "development" on their own time...they do not take off on school days as public school teachers do. So it's a trade off they gladly take for a better work environment overall.
Kathy April 26, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Correct Jaimie,they are not unionized and they do rely on fundraisers, endowments and donations as well but mainly because they offer tuition aid to certain students and sometimes scholarships as well.
joey April 27, 2012 at 11:45 AM
So good to see this...now we need to do better next year and the year after. Taxpayers need relief and better stewardship of our money is necessary. http://www.newsday.com/long-island/education/doe-lowest-proposed-school-tax-hikes-in-15-years-1.3684454
Joe April 27, 2012 at 01:45 PM
Well it is good to see that the taxpayers are getting some long overdue relief. It's unfortunate that one side is always going to get hurt in these situations...either taxpayers saddled with the burden of large tax increases or teachers/students hurt buy all of the massive cuts. It's like a seesaw effect that has finally tipped over to the other side. Nothing has actually been fixed, so the seesaw will continue each year, though. I believe there is a much easier solution, if only the boards and unions would work together to reach a common goal. Maybe I'm just naive, but I really don't think it's that difficult. Compromise is such a dirty word in this country.
Kathy April 27, 2012 at 07:18 PM
I wouldn't say that an almost 5% increase in taxes is "relief". In these economic times the school districts should be cutting costs and cutting the tax levy. The taxpayers aren't getting a 5% increase in their pay...we can't afford to pay 5% more in property taxes. It's not either/or...the taxpayers are paying more and there are massive cuts too...why would anyone vote for this? The unions don't compromise...they just take and take and take and now the well is dry. No matter how much money we throw at the education system, it doesn't get better for the kids. There needs to major educational reform and stop with these experimental teaching methods. Teachers should be experts in the subjects they teach, to start with. I have seen too many teachers over the years who don't even know the subject matter they are teaching. Then they need to group kids by ability so that everyone can move at an appropriate pace and be challenged. Also, teach what kids need to know to live. But these things will never happen as long as the government is running things.
joey April 27, 2012 at 07:22 PM
Check out the math in Smithtown with their new Super. We need careful observation when our new Super is announced this coming month. The Smithtown guy is getting a fat raise but saving the district $4000 in healthcare contributions. If he is getting a much bigger raise then the outgoing Super how is this saving the district money? BOE's across the board are incredibly dumb to how they operate with our money. http://www.newsday.com/long-island/suffolk/new-smithtown-schools-chief-getting-raise-1.3682630#disqus_thread
Concerned Citizen April 29, 2012 at 01:11 AM
30 kids, especially at the elementary level, is WAY too many. AND that is an excellent point about the Challenge program - if we don't develop the talent, it is a waste of talent, and that is yet another thing that sets us back in the world.
Concerned Citizen April 29, 2012 at 01:30 AM
Joe, you obviously know people who are teachers, as I do. Because teachers' salaries are HARDLY over the top, they are in fact good compensation for many years of hard work and dollars spent to keep up to date on the latest ways to teach children. Yes, they work in the schools 10 months a year, not 8, but also most put in countless UNDOCUMENTED hours of their own time during evenings, weekends, holidays, and YES, even summer. Just because those hours are not on the books does not mean that so many do not work them - they just don't clock in like non-exempt business empolyees do.
Concerned Citizen April 29, 2012 at 01:30 AM
A big problem in this country is that there is so little real knowledge about what teachers do and so little respect for being an educator. People who trash teachers here should spend some time in classrooms seeing how incredibly hard so many people work. Can the system be improved? Absolutely. Is making a decent salary in one of the most expensive places to live in our country a reasonable thing for a highly educated, hard working professional to ask for? Absolutely NOT. If you want intelligent, hard working people to be teachers, you need to pay them enough to pay their bills and live decently. Attacking all teachers for wanting to make a decent salary - NOT a rediculous salary on LI - is just plain short sighted and ignorant. There are problems with the system, but blaming the people who are roll up their sleeves and YES work their butts off to teach is not the solution. Blaming them blindly is pure laziness.
Concerned Citizen April 29, 2012 at 01:34 AM
Correct, teachers can and do get fired, believe it or not. During these times many have NOT gotten 3-4% on top of step increases. And lastly, during the "good times", people who work in the private sector sure have a lot more earning potential with bonuses and other perks.
Concerned Citizen April 29, 2012 at 01:50 AM
Kathy, I know many public school teachers who do hours of work on their own time, that is certainly not limited to private school teachers.
Kathy April 29, 2012 at 03:30 AM
I have never seen or heard of a public school teacher ever being fired for not performing well. Sure, they get laid off when they have to cut positions, but I have not seen any get fired for being ineffective teachers. I don't know what world you guys are living in, but, here in the real world people in the private sector are not getting big bonuses or perks anymore...those days are long gone.
Kathy April 29, 2012 at 03:35 AM
CC...I didn't say public school teachers didn't do work on their own time, they darn well better be with the salaries we are paying them. What I said was that public school teachers, in our district anyway, take development days during school days and we have to hire subs to "teach" the kids for those days. I think we all know how much learning goes on when there's a sub in the class. But the union's number one priority is not the kids, so it's not surprising.
Concerned Citizen April 29, 2012 at 01:25 PM
The amount of days that teachers are taken out of the classroom and the amount of money that costs is minimal. And to say that the union doesn't consider the kids a priority is rediculous and ignorant.
Concerned Citizen April 29, 2012 at 01:44 PM
Just because you don't know a teacher who has been let go for being ineffective doesn't mean it doesn't happen. You can't possibly know how ineffective teachers are dealt with in all districts. There is a way to get rid of them AND it happens. Yes, there does need to be a better way to reward those who truly are effective, but attacking the profession and those who have respect for it is mean-spirited and wrong. You are correct, in harder times like now the bonuses and perks disappear. And during the good times, the money is there to earn. It's a roller coaster, while public employees' pay is more of a steady road. Furthermore, the "world I'm living in" is one where the cost of living is high, and the average teacher on LI makes enough to be comfortable. That certainly does not mean a "rediculous" salary as some consider it to be. Just a good living for a highly educated, hard working employee. If you want good educators, you need to ensure that they can live decently in this high cost area.
Kathy April 29, 2012 at 10:34 PM
CC...The whole purpose of school is to educate children. When the teacher isn't there the kids are not getting educated. There is no reason for kids to be in school doing "busy work" so their teacher can take his/her own classes. Teachers have enough time off that they should better themselves on their own time like they do in private school. The only reason teachers are allowed to do this during class time is because of the union. The unions care about one thing...keeping themselves in business. They do that by getting things for their members. I used to work for a union, so I know first hand. Believing anything else is extremely naive.
Kathy April 29, 2012 at 10:53 PM
CC...no, I don't know how ineffective teachers are dealt with in all districts, but I do know about several and have friends all across the island and Queens and it is common knowledge that it is near impossible to fire a teacher unless they are a child molester or something. I'm not attacking the profession, I'm just saying what we all know, that just like any other profession that are good workers and bad. In the private sector (non-union), the good workers get rewarded with higher salaries and the bad workers don't get automatic raises, benefits and pensions based on seniority. This is a ludicrous and arbitrary system where you are rewarded for being there longer, regardless of how hard you work or how effective you are at your job. I have no problem with paying great teachers a decent salary that the taxpayers can afford. But we cannot afford to pay outrageous salaries, benefits and pensions to everyone. There needs to be incentives for teachers to perform. I am 100% against basing a teacher's effectiveness on the kids' test scores. Everyone cannot achieve to the same level, so that is not an accurate depiction of a teacher's ability. The whole system is broken and the kids and taxpayers suffer.
Jaimie April 30, 2012 at 12:05 AM
Kathy- in general, when an employee is required to attend training, classes, or something else by their employer/profession, they will get paid for that time regardless of whether it is during the "work day" or "after hours". So the development days would need to be paid one way or the other- in fact, the district probably prefers it during the normal day since they would have to pay a teacher for these hours anyway. I don't know what your issue with subs are, as I always thought they needed to be certified, etc. just like the permanent teachers, so I would think they are adequate to cover 1 day or so.
Concerned Citizen April 30, 2012 at 01:59 AM
Jaimie you are right, when any employer, public or private sector, requires an employee to get additional training it is often done during the day and is cheaper that way. It is rare in any field for an employee to be out for days of training, missing several days of work. This conversation will go around in circles here and really isn't doing much good. There are many things that people seem to agree on here, and many things do need to change. Debating the value of public school teachers as a whole is really pointless. There needs to be more funding from our state and federal governments if they want to see results. The cuts are just too deep. There needs to be better allocation of money to those with talent, and most importantly continuied work towards preparing students well for the real world. All of that gets lost when energy is spent on correcting rediculous comments like "works 8 mos or less", and "makes ungodly amounts of money".
Kathy April 30, 2012 at 04:14 AM
Jaimie...when I was talking about development days, I was referring to the prior comments where someone was saying that teachers spend alot of money on continuing education so they deserve large (6 figure) salaries. In the private sector it depends on whether the training is directly related to doing the job or if they person is just getting a higher degree so they can demand better pay. My issue with the subs are that they don't typically teach...it's very difficult for someone else to come in and pick up where the teacher, who is there every day and has a certain style and rhythm, left off and be effective. Usually the teacher leaves busy work for the kids to do and the sub is just there babysitting.
Kathy April 30, 2012 at 04:20 AM
CC...the problem with the funding is that this government, and apparently a majority of the citizens, believe in redistribution of wealth. That's why the system is set up the way it is. If they intended for us to use our own money to fund our schools, we wouldn't have to give our money first to the state and feds and then have them dole it out to whom ever they choose. Until we start voting in people who do not believe in redistribution of wealth and who do believe in free market capitalism, this will not change.
Joe April 30, 2012 at 07:52 PM
Your comments get funnier and funnier every day. Contrary to what YOU are saying, the unions, in fact, do compromise. Well, at least they try to. The teachers union have not only come up with numerous ways to save the district money, but they also have tried to compromise with the BOE. The problem is that the BOE has a "take it or leave it" attitude that puts the unions back against the wall. And when the union doesn't give in to the BOEs demands, the BOE slanders the teacher's union to the community. And there are many more proposals than what you hear at the board meetings or on this site. You (and the BOE) have a funny difinition of the word compromise. The BOE is smart in one sense...they rely on people like you to buy into the BS that they spew. I'm amazed that more people don't see through it but I guess their hatred for teachers is blinding them. If you truly think that the Unions don't compromise, the I really don't know what to say.
Ron May 04, 2012 at 10:47 PM
Any news on whether SHTA voted in favor of the BOE proposal? Full time Kindergarten and many jobs are on the line.
Edward Baker May 05, 2012 at 04:47 PM
Teachers voted Yes! Educational programs are saved

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