Written by Eric Holden Friday, 17 June 2011 00:00
Over 150 local educators attended the Levittown Board of Education meeting on Wednesday, June 8 wearing all black, in a show of solidarity against the district’s plan to lay off at least 66 teachers.
Levittown teachers’ union President Therese Rogers noted that the LUT met with the district since March 29 of this year to see if they could reach a reasonable agreement that would save the district money through union sacrifices.
“The union has remained relatively silent in the face of extensive criticism regarding its discussions with the district,” said Rogers. “It is now time to set the record straight. The current crisis in this district was caused by those managing its finances. Despite the fact that it is the district’s mismanagement that caused the current problem, the union has been willing to remain in discussions regarding opening the labor contract. The union wants to save district jobs and programs.”Rogers also made the point that in the current political climate, it is easy to villainize the teachers’ union. “The union did not cause the national or local economic crisis,” added Rogers. “The Levittown residents have passed this district’s budget in good faith. The slashing of 108 teaching positions will most certainly impact the high quality of education that Levittown taxpayers have earned, expect and deserve.”
Twenty-three speakers took the podium in the Public Be Heard segment of the evening and many questioned why the CSEA retirement incentive was reneged by the board last month. Several residents spoke in support of teachers who received layoff notices, including MacArthur track coach Jamie SanFilippo. Many community members also came to the mic to offer their gratitude to Trustee James P. Ward, who is retiring after 30 years of service to the district.
Levittown educator Teresa Thomas pleaded to the board to spread the burden of budget cuts equally throughout the district, rather than just at the elementary level. “The elementary schools have been hit the hardest,” said Thomas. “The smallest of children have taken the largest hits in the system. Their class sizes will increase and their reading programs have been cut. Their librarians and sixth grade work study have been cut.”
Board of Education President Michael Pappas spoke somberly after the Declaration of Excess Positions motion was passed. “This is a sad day in Levittown,” said Pappas. “Unfortunately, there is no other alternative.”
Levittown resident Colleen Napoli implored all sides involved to find some common ground. “There are always three sides to every story,” said Napoli. “There is [the board’s] side, the union’s side, and then there is the truth. I’m on the side of everybody involved, but most importantly I’m on the side of the ones who count the most, the children. Right now in this concession battle, they will be the biggest losers.”
The meeting began on a lighter note, as the board honored several members of the community. Board of Education President Michael Pappas congratulated Division and MacArthur baseball teams for their tremendous 2011 campaigns.
Retiring Superintendent Herman A. Sirois, Trustee James P. Ward, and other instructional and non-instructional staff were recognized for their work in the district, while Wisdom Lane students Caitlin Haars and Barbara-Ann Reyman were given certificates for their anti-bullying efforts.
In additional business, the board approved a numerical grading system for physical education classes at the secondary level beginning with the 2011-12 school year. Also, a gift in the amount of $42.36 for the East Broadway Elementary School, given by AHOLD Financial Services, was allowed and accepted with thanks.
The board will convene next at the Levittown Memorial Education Center for a regular meeting on Tuesday, July 5 at 7:30 p.m.