The South Huntington Teachers Association Wednesday endorsed two challengers running in next week's school board election.
Not surprisingly, much of the union's endorsement letter revolved around the board's decision to cut the ninth period of classes at Whitman in an effort to save more than $1 million through the elimination of about 18 teaching positions. Over a a series of board workshops to hammer out the final $140 million budget that will go to the voters next week, many teachers, students and parents spoke out in support of the ninth period. Ultimately, the board killed the ninth period.
The board rejected a teachers' union plan that involved having their members pay an extra $2,300 each toward health insurance costs and would have saved the Whitman schedule and teachers' jobs but came with several restrictions on teachers' non-classroom hours and other issues that the district administration said it could not accept.
The union endorsed Lisa Brieff and Laci Wright, both PTA presidents hoping to replace the two incumbent candidates, member Melanie Vassallo and board president Jim Kaden. While endorsing Kaden's rivals, the union, which has been engaged in a long-running argument over union givebacks, did acknowledge him, saying, "If he were reelected to his position, it would not be a tragedy. He is extremely intelligent. His knowledge and experience give him an advantage over his competitors."
And, the union said, "There are 3 obviously qualified candidates. Unfortunately there are only 2 spots available.it felt the challengers were better choices."
It cited Brieff's support of the ninth period and other academic programs and her criticism of the state of relations between the board and the schools' unions.
While endorsing Wright, the union said, "At every stage, she has shown gratitude and respect for the South Huntington employees in general as well as teachers in particular."
The union was critical of Vassallo, citing some of her comments at board meetings that questioned the pay and workloads of teachers.
Voters will choose two candidates Tuesday and decide the fate of the proposed 2011-2012 budget.