More than 260 Brentwood teachers could face layoffs

Brentwood High School (March 15, 2010) Brentwood High School (March 15, 2010) Photo Credit: Ed Betz

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School authorities in Brentwood, Long Island's biggest district, announced Monday that more than 260 teachers face potential layoffs there - the latest of a dozen local systems that have acknowledged possible job losses in June.

In a memo issued to the district's 3,000 employees, Brentwood officials say that they are facing a $37-million budget hole and indicate that at least 146 jobs could be lost through a combination of retirements, resignations and layoffs, even if local unions agree to major pay concessions.

Other districts where school or union leaders have indicated substantial potential layoffs: Comsewogue, Hempstead, Island Trees, Islip, Lindenhurst, Middle Country, Northport-East Northport, Patchogue-Medford, South Huntington, Three Village and William Floyd.

Across Long Island and the state, union leaders are seeking to reassure teachers that many layoffs could be rescinded, if lawmakers, as expected in an election year, restore school-aid cuts proposed by Gov. David A. Paterson. Moreover, state officials are suggesting that districts could avoid many staffing cuts by digging into their cash reserves.

Even if the state school-aid cuts are restored, Brentwood would still face substantial job losses, however, and that's stirring widespread anxiety.

"We're prepared for the worst," said Joe Hogan, president of Brentwood's 1,400- member teacher union.

Hogan added that district authorities had told him job losses there could go as high as 400. That number, if it materializes, would be the highest to emerge on the Island this year.

Vincent Lyons, a New York State United Teachers union director for Suffolk, said Monday the job outlook for teachers would not be clear until state lawmakers adopt a budget. "We're telling them, don't panic at this point," said Lyons.

In Brentwood, administrators declined to confirm the local union's estimate of potential job losses. But a memo issued in the afternoon by Superintendent Donna Jones indicates that layoffs could rise well above 260, because that figure assumes the teachers' union will make at least limited contract concessions, such as a salary freeze or deferred raises.

Hogan said he would discuss possible concessions with teachers later this week.

Jones' memo adds that the district must make $37 million in cuts next year. Her rationale is that cuts are needed to compensate for a projected $3-million loss in state aid and to meet rising costs of salaries, pensions and other expenses. Brentwood's budget this year is $307.3 million.

"This is a very difficult position, because the community cannot stand a double-digit tax increase," the superintendent said in an interview. "But if we all work together, all share the pain, then we can work something out that won't overburden this community and that will minimize job losses."

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