MONTROSE, N.Y. – Before nearly 200 people, Hendrick Hudson School District officials made an announcement that as many as 33 staff members could have their positions reduced in a budget recommended to the board of education.
The resounding response from audience members was summed up by one speaker from the public—“Save these teachers!”
The district must find nearly $2.8 million in savings to meet the tax levy cap, which through a complicated formula provided by the state is calculated at 1.07 percent for Hen Hud. The district has identified an additional $175,000 it will need for spending, connected to tax certioraris and “potential additional staff,” according to a hand out at the meeting. The two represent a total of nearly $3 million in cuts.
The district divided the cuts into two priority levels, “level one” and “level two.” If only level one positions are cut in the budget brought to public vote, 26 positions in total would be cut, which represent $2.2 million – comprised of 11 teachers, 12 teacher aides and three custodians, 26 positions in total.
The district is hoping to have a “zero” increase in teacher contracts that would save a little under $800,000 and priority level two staff positions. District officials said that if the district’s teachers union doesn’t accept a “zero increase” deal, level two positions would also be cut.
As many as half the audience members at Wednesday’s meeting wore blue “HHEA” t-shirts in support of the Hendrick Hudson Education Association.
Level two positions on the chopping block include five elementary level classroom teachers, one guidance counselor and an assistant principal from the high school, representing the same $800,000 in savings.
Even if teachers accept the “zero increase” deal proposed by the district, it would only guarantee the safety of level two positions. Board members said they are unclear if level one positions can be saved at all. Level one position cuts include programming such as two elementary school librarians, one social worker and one art teacher.
“The new contracts have to reflect the new economic reality,” said Superintendent Daniel McCann.
“We have a very highly paid staff,” said Board President Marion Walsh, noting that the issue is a double-edged sword because, “We want to attract the best.” One scenario likely weighing on the mind of board members is the rejection of the budget, which would necessitate a contingency budget and even more reductions than what was presented to the public at Wednesday’s meeting.
“That is one of my fears,” said Carol Popolow-Abraham, a parent in the district. “Parents are not going to understand the tax levy,” she said adding, “and it will be worse.”
“In my opinion the teachers at Frank G. Lindsey perform miracles,” said Doug Ballard, father of two students in the district about one of the hardest hit elementary schools. He said his two children came from a foreign country and couldn’t speak English three years ago. “You must find a way to keep them on the staff, you simply must.”
Elvia Pesantes held up her 5-year-old daughter, Amira and showed the crowd her note, which read, “I love you. You are my teacher.” Pesantes said the family only speaks Spanish at home and is amazed at her daughter’s love of writing.