Patch readers have had a lot to say and an article posted Friday about , and was hoping district teachers would be willing to do the same.
James made the announcement at the Commack Union-Free School District's March 15, Board of Education meeting, shortly before the district discussed severe proposed cuts to the areas of special education, athletic sports teams and co-curricular activities.
Under the district's proposed $170 million 2012-13 budget, school officials are considering laying off 40 to 60 teachers, one administrator, two secretaries, six custodians with an additional $700,000 in cuts or savings. Further program cuts could include the elimination of assistant coaches for 16 sports teams, elimination of the varsity swim team, and elimination of a list of co-curricular clubs and honor societies.
The superintendent and Board of Education both said the option of renegotiating contracts and potential pay freeze have been put to the teacher's union for consideration. James claimed a teacher's pay freeze, would save the district nearly $4 million and eliminate the need for many cuts.
Patch readers had plenty to say about the issues looming over the 2012-13 school budget.
Patch commented said, "This is a ploy. This is a way for the top brass to say we are leading by example, and everyone else should follow suit and turn them into the bad guys when they don't accept a freeze."
However, others applauded the superintendent's decision to take a pay freeze.
"Amen!! Any salary freeze must be unilateral and unconditional. Last time around, the school board gave the teachers union a contract extention to 2014 in exchange for a lower raise. All it did was put off last year's problem to this year and now we see the result of that poor planning," wrote.
Throughout the proposed 2012-13 budget, the district is recommending to eliminate many co-curricular clubs initially on the cutting block for this year, but were saved for a one-year period only after public outcry.
Many decried James for having a high salary, questioning his salary and benefits given the district's $4.7 million shortfall for 2012-13. Some district residents spoke in support of the teacher's union, who just renegotiated their contract with the district last spring.
said, "... It is our responsibility to pay for the education of the children here. How many of us would be willing to pay part of OUR salary to pay for Kings Park Schools? So then why do we always seem to expect the teachers' to cut their salary to pay for ours? Fair is fair. Let's take our responsibility as our own and pay for Commack's schools. Isn't that why we all moved here?"
A comment made by Board of Education trustee Peter Wunsch that "We have ways of making nearly all of those district employees who received pink slips ineligible for unemployment" drew fire from the community.
"What the board suggested regarding unemployment is not even legal. It's bad enough we're laying off teachers but to threaten them like is disgusting and unprofessional," commented .
Concerned Commackian followed up with, "I agree. I'm as passionate about school tax reform and fiscal responsibility as anyone, but that comment should be censured by the Board if they want to retain any sort of credibility."
One resident, , tried to offer a few different solutions for consideration.
"Why was there no early retirement incentive offered? If they knew that teachers were going to be let go, why not offer an early retirement incentive, where the higher salaried teachers and administrators could retire, which in turn would allow more teachers to stay, keep smaller class sizes and less cuts to programs," said Weiss.
He also said that he would be willing to pay more for his child's education provided all other options and avenues were exhausted, rather than lose 40 - 60 teachers.
Patch commenters began calling for those in the heated discussion to send the article to Commack's Board of Education members, to open the floor for discussions at future board meetings.