Central Islip Senior High School on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020.

Central Islip Senior High School on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. Credit: James Carbone

Severance pay for teachers and other civil service workers not in law enforcement can vary substantially from one Long Island government to another, Newsday found in its analysis of the benefits.

For instance, among the 125 Long Island school districts in the analysis, 17 owe less than half the statewide per-student average for retirement pay for districts off Long Island. Five of them, including Levittown, Springs, Wainscott, New Suffolk and Sagaponack reported owing nothing.

Compare that with Central Islip, where the per capita income is only two-thirds of the countywide average. Teachers there can leave their jobs with one year of base salary for unused sick days. And that’s on top of an up to $50,000 bonus if they leave as soon as they have reached an age and experience level that would allow them to retire with a full pension.

Tenured Central Islip teachers earn 15 sick days each year. They also receive five personal days and five “bedside care” days, which are for attending to sick family members, with no explanation required when teachers use them. Altogether, that is nearly three days per month over a 180-day school year.

Some of those benefits, including the up to $50,000 bonus and “bedside care” days, were awarded as part of a 10-year contract signed in 2017 that caps at 1.8% any raises received in 7 of the 10 years (and no more than 3% in the other years). Its prior contract contained raises of 1.99%. The up to $50,000 bonus is intended to encourage the highest-paid teachers to retire promptly and therefore reduce district costs, Central Islip officials said.

Richard Iannuzzi, a former head of the Central Islip teachers’ union who later became president of the state teacher’s union, said similar negotiations — trading smaller raises in exchange for more severance — led over many years to larger severance benefits at some districts.

Christopher J. Brown, the district’s assistant superintendent for personnel, said the contract will slow down cost increases and that even with the additional severance benefits the district expects, it will owe less severance in the coming years.

“Our projection,” Brown said, “is that our long-term liability will be decreasing over the next few years.”

Iannuzzi said he believes the variances in teacher contracts are a product of the priorities within different districts.

“I think that is what you see reflected,” he said. “You see that interest in their own community and the right programs and the right teachers and the right support staff.”

Brown said Central Islip received little community criticism after recent media coverage of having 9 of the 10 highest-paid school district employees in the state — all retirees who received more than $440,000, including severance.

“One or two people have commented,” he said. “We've not had any major reaction on that.”

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