Bay Shore School District faculty members will no longer be excessed for the 2020-21 academic school year.
That’s because the district reached an agreement with the Bay Shore Classroom Teachers Association on July 22 to a salary increase deferment agreement.
Back on July 2, approximately 80 teachers were told they were going to be laid off for this upcoming school year.
Below is the official statement the District published on its Facebook page on Thursday, July 23.
The district held a public, remote school board meeting to discuss the details of this agreement and answer further questions sent in by community members.
Susan Gargan, president of the Board of Education, started the meeting off announcing that the central office administrators, the Bay Shore Administrators Association, and the Bay Shore Classroom Teachers Association all agreed to defer their salary increases for the upcoming school year.
“This flexibility will allow the district to prepare for the forewarned cuts in state aid without having to excess any of our valuable teaching and administrative staff,” Gargan said. “We share your passion for our teaching staff and the value they bring to our students.”
Gargan thanked community members for their feedback and emails voicing their concerns about the teacher layoffs. She spoke personally about the decision to layoff approximately 80 teachers in the district.
She said many of the teachers are friends of members of the school board and people they have grown up with.
“Sending those pink slips was gut-wrenching and heartbreaking, and a last resort,” Gargan said. “We are grateful we were able to come to a resolution, and we appreciate every unit and the staff for working with us.”
Andrew Arcuri, vice president of the Bay Shore Board of Education, said the budgetary issues and excessing of teachers was solely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Anyone and everyone who had the contract, including every single teacher in this district, has the right to expect and insist upon strict compliance with every term in their contract,” Arcuri said. “The budgetary issues and excessing of teachers was born solely, and exclusively, by the COVID-19 pandemic — it was not, and is not, out of mismanagement, and it certainly was not as a result of any crime, in fact, a felony.”
Arcuri was referencing the accusations of budget mismanagement and concerns regarding the recent election that was brought up by community members through social media.
“Social media posters frequently act irresponsibly and they should never do such things in regards to this district,” Arcuri said.
Arcuri said the original proposal to the BSCTA was if the Governor gave 95% of the state-aid, then teachers and staff kept their jobs. The only change was that teachers were being asked to share a portion of the shortfall in the state aid.
He said the notices were required to be sent out by contract, the district did not have a choice.
Arcuri also mentioned that Bay Shore Schools derives a substantial amount of revenue from state aid as a result of the area’s socioeconomic status.
“It is more than most of the surrounding communities, that’s why the number of people who received slips was such,” he said. “When the Governor said he might not give out the state-aid that he once promised, it hit us particularly hard.”
The resolution that was voted on was nearly identical to the original agreement that was first offered to the BSCTA Governing Board, Arcuri said, but now includes a non-financial clause.
The clause allows every teacher to take their free personal days at any time, except around vacation time for any reason, without any evidence or notice to the District.
Arcuri opposed the clause of the resolution but voted in favor of the agreement.
Gargan addressed a concern from the community about the excess of teachers not being discussed prior to the budget vote in June.
She said the budget development starts in February, and Cuomo’s announcement about the state aid cuts came shortly before the district had to adopt a budget.
“It would absolutely be impossible to rework the budget and find $10 million in that amount of time,” Gargan said.
Gargan said the excess of teachers was not because of “fiscal mismanagement by the district.” The district official said it is a state issue and matter of financial uncertainly as a result of the pandemic.
The need to reduce expenditures following the announcing of state aid cuts was discussed on April 15 and at the budget hearing on June 1, Gargan said.
“While we did not specifically discuss salary permits or excess letters, it was noted that some actions to negate the potential loss in revenue would be necessary,” she said.
Gargan denied claims that the district was in a financial rut and said there is not a shortfall in the district’s current budget.
The Board of Education president also said the arts and music were hit the hardest by the cuts because they are deemed “non-mandated” services by the state education department.
“I would like to highlight, non-mandated does not mean not important to us,” she said. “I don’t think there is a person who’d think the district thinks the arts don’t have value.”
Arcuri said what also played into this decision was the fact that the school faced the possibility of not reopening and continuing distant learning.
Gargan also denied claims that there was misconduct regarding the recent School Board Trustee and budget election results in June.
She said the information going around the community was inaccurate. The conduction of the vote was done legally during the COVID-19 pandemic and the district followed the legal guidelines provided by the state education department when counting absentee ballots.
A challenge of the election results was brought to the Commissioner of Education by community members and in the petition, it was requested the Commissioner state the results pending a final decision on the appeal.
The state request was denied.
“Challenging the results is everybody’s right to do that, challenging people’s character and integrity, and accusations of election fraud is another,” she said. “Election fraud is a felony crime, and I can’t imagine anyone involved in the election including all candidates would be willing to go to jail for a School Board of Education election.”
In her closing statements, Gargan assured the public that the district is not withholding information from the community and they are working to remain transparent.
“We are not keeping secrets and trying to withhold information, it serves no purpose to anyone,” Gargan said. “I made a promise to myself and the community that I would continue to try to do better, and I will try to continue to do so, as each one of us will.”
“We look forward to working together to make this school year the best it could be for its students, community, and staff under very difficult circumstances,” Gargan said.
The full Board of Education public session held Wednesday evening can be viewed via Facebook Live here.
GreaterBayShore reached out to the district and the BSCTA for additional comments. Check back for updated information.
Top: School hallway provided by Kyo Azuma via UnSplash