April 20, 2011
Take Aim At Teacher Salaries
First they flogged the town, urging officials to increase enforcement of illegally overcrowded houses. More recently, community members who joined together to form the Springs homeowners alliance have turned an unhappy eye towards Springs School, in particular, the salaries for Springs teachers.
A newly created website for the group heralds an effort to persuade hamlet residents to vote No on the school budget on May 17. Dissatisfied that the district's board of education backed off a potential $4 million in cuts after a positive tuition agreement resulted in savings for the district, the site's home page reports, "We are asking all qualified voters in Springs to order Superintendent Michael Hartner and every member of the Board of Education to put a dunce cap on and sit in the classroom corner facing the wall until they come up with an alternate budget that the majority of Springs residents find palatable."
Lynn Scanlon created the website after she realized 70 percent of her tax bill went towards school expenses. "I realized I wasn't alone in my disbelief in the amount of money spent at the school," she said. "We need to let the school board know they have a fiduciary responsibility to the entire community."
The site has incited attention with a section devoted to "Shocking 2009-2010 Salaries!" It lists top salaries for a slew of Springs teachers, as well as Superintendent Michael Hartner ($190,000) and principal Eric Casale ($138,555).
Given raises that are expected, 2011 could see at least one teacher's salary topping $130,000, 14 teachers making in the $120,000 range and still another group of 10 taking home six figure paychecks in amounts between $112,000 and $100,000. According to the website, there are 22 additional teachers making between $75K and $100K, not to mention 50 more teachers, aides, and support staff receiving paychecks from the Springs taxpayer.
"We love our teachers, but these salaries are out of line. We have the current Board of Ed to thank for negotiating the contracts," Scanlon writes on the site. "My family has owned a house in Springs for 30 years," she told The Independent Monday. "We never begrudged the school a dime, even though we never sent a single child there, but we've reached a breaking point as have my neighbors."
The page reminds the salaries do not include benefits and pensions.
"It's shocking," said Reg Cornelia, who served on the Springs school board from 1993 to 1998. He affirmed the page's list includes teachers he remembers hiring in the mid 90s at salaries topping $35,000. In 16 years, the pay has more than tripled, while locally, especially during the last several years, salaries in the private sector have flagged. Cornelia pointed out that when teachers making the six figure salaries retire, district residents continue to pay a large percentage of their salaries in pensions and have to start paying new, replacement teachers' salaries as well. "Enough is enough," he said.
It could be.
Asked to comment on the website, Nancy Olsen the co-president of the Springs teachers' union bemoaned "disheartening" anti-teacher sentiments, and composed a press release in answer to Indy's questions about the website. The teachers association is sensitive to fiscal shortfalls brought about from cuts to state aid, Olsen wrote. "To that extent the Springs Teachers' Association has submitted proposals in contract negotiations with significant financial concessions to get the community and district through these troubled times." She said the STA continues to negotiate, cognizant of the economic climate.
The union president reported the union continues to propose concessions even though Springs teachers rank in the lower salary quartile compared to other educators in Suffolk County. She said union negotiators are proud of the service Springs School teachers provide as well as "their ability to overcome the current assault waged against the teaching industry in the media."
A second watchdog group, Residents and Taxpayers for Representations, dedicated to working with the East Hampton School district to ensure taxpayers and residents are adequately represented will hold its first official meeting tomorrow night from 6:30 to 9 PM in Ashawagh Hall in Springs.