The Yonkers school district, already strapped for cash, could lose $17 million in state and federal money and be forced to slash jobs if the teachers and administration can't agree on a teacher evaluation plan this week.
"If we lose that money, I have no other recourse then to start to cut back on positions in a district that's already been severely stressed from positions we've cut in the past," Superintendent Bernard Pierorazio said.
Pierorazio estimated that a midyear budget cut of $17 million would mean 180-200 job cuts. The district cut more than 360 school employees before the 2011-12 school year.
In a letter last week, the state Education Department urged the district to submit a plan by Dec. 1 to allow enough time for approval, Pierorazio said. All school districts in the state must have a state-approved teacher evaluation plan by Jan. 17 or risk losing state school aid increases for 2012-13. Yonkers' state aid increase is about $9.5 million.
What's more, Yonkers failed to meet a July 1 deadline to have an evaluation agreement, upon which hinges $7.5 million in federal School Improvement Grant money for Cross Hill Academy and Early College High School. The state has refused to release that money, Pierorazio said.
Pierorazio called on the Yonkers Federation of Teachers to prioritize approving a teacher evaluation plan, even if a full contract isn't negotiated. The teachers have been working without a contract since last year.
Yonkers Federation of Teachers President Pat Puleo long has called for administrators to settle the entire package.
"There is no reason that there cannot be a new contract and a new evaluation system in place before January," Puleo said. "We've made a very fair, practically no dollar, contract proposal to them. The only reason that there's not a contract is because the mayor, the trustees and the superintendent have failed to do their due diligence and put together a reasonable contract."
Pierorazio countered that the union proposals do cost money and must be weighed in the current fiscal environment.
Yonkers Mayor Mike Spano and City Council President Chuck Lesnick did not immediately return calls for comment Sunday.
Despite the tightening deadline, Pierorazio said he was "cautiously optimistic" that the evaluation plan could be hashed out.
School administrators and teachers federation representatives have had 21 meetings throughout the year on the teacher evaluation plan, and eight meetings on the contract, Pierorazio said. Pierorazio said that last Monday both sides agreed to have members dedicating full days to ironing out the evaluation language.
Puleo said she will put a evaluation-only agreement before the teachers if one is offered by the district. Puleo believes teachers will be disappointed if that's the case.
"They're using this funding crisis to allow them not to bargain in good faith," Puleo said. "That's not fair, and the teachers will know that."