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Commack School Officials Lay Out Teaching Cuts, School by School

Informal budget hearing scheduled for 8 p.m. Thursday at Commack High School.

Commack school officials laid out a school-by-school break down of where they propose cutting 40 teaching positions in the latest budget update. 

Superintendent Donald James has recommended a $170.4 million budget for the 2012-13 school year, or 2.6 percent tax levy, requiring roughly $4.5 million in cuts. Under the proposed budget, the district would lay off roughly 40-60 teachers, one administrator, two secretaries, six custodians and still need to make an additional $700,000 in cuts to programs. 

Adele Pecora-Dusanenko, assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction, laid out where 37.89 teachers and three teaching assistants will be cut from, school-by-school at the March 29 budget workshop. 

The largest proposed staffing cuts will affect Commack's elementary schools, with 17.24 teacher and staff reductions. The proposed staffing calls for the elimination of four kindergarten teachers, three second and fourth-grade teachers, and one teacher each in first and third grade. Other cuts will be made in to special areas, arts, music, physical education and the library based on reductions to the number of class sections. 

Pecora-Dusanenko said some of the staffing reductions in the younger grades, especially kindergarten, can be attributed to decreasing student enrollment. Commack Union-Free School District's overall enrollment is expected to drop by 150 to 200 students for the 2012-13 school year. 

The largest increase in class sizes will be within the kindergarten classes, currently at 20.8 students this year projected to jump to 23 students for the 2012-13 school year. The second largest class size will be among third graders, from an average of 23.4 this year to a projected 24.9 students per classroom. 

School officials proposed to cut 10.1 teaching positions from , with an estimated six positions being eliminated due to shrinking enrollment according to Pecora-Dusanenko. 

The largest cuts at the middle school level will be to world languages, physical education and science classes. The areas of ESL, guidance, library, nurses, psychologists, special education, nurses and social workers will not be affected by the cuts. 

At , the proposed $170 million budget calls for the eliminated of 10.53 teaching positions. The areas facing the largest staff cuts are: 1.9 science teachers, 1.3 music teachers, 1.2 in art, 1.2 in world languages and one business teacher. 

Commack school district will be receiving some additional state aid for 2012-13 school year, as New York State Budget was finalized this week, according to district spokeswoman Brenda Lentsch. The exact amount and plans for this funding are expected to be shared at Thursday night's meeting. 

James has repeatedly said at prior budget workshops that his recommendations for additional funds would be to restore some of the staffing cuts, particularly towards teachers. 

The Board of Education and school officials are in negotiations with many of the district's unions after t

"We are negotiating every contract we can in effort to find savings and save programs. To manage to maintain programs is the ultimate goal. That matter of striking a balance is what we are in now," James said. 

If the district was to proposed a 4.1 percent budget its allowed under Gov. Andrew Cuomo's tax cap, James said the district may be able to save approximately 13 of the teaching positions currently on the chopping block. 

Commack school officials and the Board of Education will hold an informal budget hearing 8 p.m. Thursday, April 5 at Commack High School. 

Mark K April 07, 2012 at 04:58 PM
It amazes me that limited growth in the budget always means draconian cuts in school programs. How is it that 1 or 2 % means so much? Commack Schools are top heavy, teacher heavy and the salaries are way too generous. See for yourself what teachers in this district make http://seethroughny.net/payrolls/ Time to cut.
GM April 07, 2012 at 05:53 PM
Chef- you are right. All should accept a rollback. (I only cited teachers because that is the largest portion of cost and headcount.) Our teachers do a good job but this is not about judgement, this is simply a balance sheet matter. I do find it strange that they use the word UNION to suggest solidarity but when there's an opportunity to share the burden and avoid firings , they offer up the younger members rather than be "unified." Certainly not a "one for all, and all for one" theme going on there. -gmorgan
chefcristo April 07, 2012 at 11:03 PM
gm, i wish you were wrong about the "last in, first out" teachers' scenario. unfortunately, you're not; however i believe that language (or something similar) is written into the union's by-laws, and both older and newer teachers are aware of it. i guess, unfortunately again, it's a save your own ass situation (and solidarity or not, that's the name of the game.)
chefcristo April 07, 2012 at 11:10 PM
.....unfair? yes. practical? reluctantly, yes. however, (not being anywhere near a financial know-it-all) i think a people who are can be creative enough to bring us through this mess without losing any of our (mostly) fantastic teachers...WITHOUT ANY TAX HIKE....ZERO, NONE, FINANCIAL STATUS QUO, ZILCH...you know what i mean!
Taxxed April 08, 2012 at 03:18 AM
If you are for change, go to the new thread http://commack.patch.com/articles/spotlight-informal-hearing-on-170m-budget-7728e72a

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