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Bay Shore district lays off teachers to prepare for 'worst-case scenario'

The Bay Shore school district declined Friday to

The Bay Shore school district declined Friday to say how many teachers were laid off and from which schools and areas. Credit: Kendall Rodriguez

The Bay Shore School district has laid off dozens of teachers after the district and teachers' association governing board failed to reach an agreement on deferring salary increases.

School officials said an agreement was necessary in case state aid is cut by Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo because of the coronavirus pandemic.

"The Board of Education did everything in its power to negotiate a good-faith agreement that would allow the district to maintain fiscal solvency and provide maximum flexibility in addressing the scheduling challenges that lie ahead," read a statement from the district issued late Thursday.

In a statement Friday, Bay Shore Classroom Teachers’ Association President Michael Krieger said up to 80 educators have been impacted between layoffs and retirements. 

"These past few months have been hard on the entire Bay Shore community, and we’ve tried to do our part by continuing to teach, ramping up our community service and working with the district to try to address the economic uncertainty we face," Krieger said. "But we can’t cut our way to better schools. Every teacher plays an important role and does so because that’s what students deserve."

District spokeswoman Krystyna Baumgartner declined Friday to say how many teachers were laid off and from which schools and areas. The district also declined to say how much money would be saved by the move, and board president Susan Gargan declined to comment when reached at home.

The district's statement, which also was posted on its website and on social media, said district officials proposed an agreement that deferred teacher salary increases based on a scale tied to possible future reductions in state aid. Cuomo repeatedly has said he would be forced to cut state aid to local governments and schools if Congress does not provide another federal relief package to compensate for the billions in lost tax revenue during the pandemic.

Bay Shore officials said state aid cuts of 5% or less would enable the district to meet its contractual obligations, and no salary increases would be deferred. An agreement also would have negated the need for layoffs, the district said. Cuomo has talked about possible cuts of 50% and 20%.

The negotiating teams were able to reach an agreement between staff and the district, according to the statement, but the bylaws of the Bay Shore Classroom Teachers’ Association required approval from the Governing Board before a vote by the membership at large. The Governing Board rejected the district's proposal, according to the statement.  According to the association's website, Krieger, a social studies teacher at Bay Shore Middle, serves as executive board head. 

"Faced with potential state aid cuts of 20% or more, the Board of Education must fulfill its fiduciary responsibility to the taxpayers of Bay Shore and Brightwaters, and prepare for the worst-case scenario," the statement read.

The district's Facebook page noted that in general, the teaching positions cut were non-mandated services or subject areas.

"There is a likelihood that at least some of the teachers who were excessed today will be brought back once our scheduling needs and state aid have been determined," the statement read.

Krieger noted that the union "isn’t willing to simply accept the loss of up to approximately 80 educators, between layoffs and retirements, as the end of the line. We remain ready and willing to work with the district to come to a resolution that would address the financial uncertainty every school district faces, while maintaining the excellence we are known for.”

In June, residents of Bay Shore and Brightwaters approved a $162,967,087 budget for the 2020-21 school year, up 2.24% from school year. The district has about 5,900 students.

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