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Problem is compensation

The big issue facing KLSD is not the extent to which the leaders of the professional associations who represent our staff have lost confidence in our superintendent. The big issue is the extent to which staff compensation packages have gotten so far from those of comparable districts in our area. Last year, the district’s community-based Finance Committee showed, in detail, that the KLSD per-pupil cost is $1,752 higher than the average among five other high-performing districts such as Byram Hills, Chappaqua and Scarsdale. Almost 90% of that difference, about $1,577 per pupil, is for instruction and benefits. Issues regarding district-staff relations should be dealt with appropriately and swiftly.

But the parade of horribles that some have attributed to the superintendent’s alleged personality shortcomings pale in comparison to the damage that will be done to our schools and students if we do not get our compensation packages under control and at least partially in line with the compensation packages offered by our peers. To put this in Finance Committee terms, if we reduce per-pupil spending to, say, Chappaqua levels, our spending would be reduced by $8.2 million, or about 7% of our budget. Even half of that reduction would get us past our structural deficit and spare us job losses, curtailed programs, and undesirably large class sizes. But the only way we will get there is if our staff agrees to modify the compensation line item. Without such modification, in a tax cap environment, the consequences will be ugly.

Michael Gordon

Former School Board President

Dec. 18

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  • BillS

    You need to stop hiding behind the Triborough Amendment and take repsonsibility for the fact that you failed to stop the run-away fiscal train. You didn’t even try. Your justification for giving the teachers a raise with the last contract was to gain their support. Well, take a look where that has gotten us, just further in the hole.

    • Glenn DeFaber

      Bill, what kind of contrition are you looking for from Mike Gordon? Instead of trying to un-ring the bell let’s look what can be done to preserve the quality education K-L offers. Beating up on Mike Gordon and all the board members who have been willing accomplices in creating the mess we are in now accomplishes nothing. The problem we face is not the school board or Dr. Kreutzer, but the teacher’s union. Don’t fall into their trap in their attempt to divert attention away from their intransigence in accepting a fair compensation package. There is no more smoke and mirrors or surplus funds to paper over the structural deficit K-L has. If the school board sends up a tax cap busting budget a 60% approval is needed. Historically this has proven to be very rare occurrence.

  • reeve1

    Bill S, don’t fall into the trap of the factions on past schools boards that spent their energy fighting each other while the Administration and the Union cleaned their clock.

    It is unfortunate that it took until now for the majority of the Board of Education to figure out that our teachers’ overly generous compensation and pensions would make quality education unsustainable in Katonah-Lewisboro, and to finally hire an superintendent who “gets it.”

    The union leadership is digging-in. Their selfish and disingenuous tactics prove they are willing to destroy taxpayers and put our children’s education at risk.

  • Richard Morrissey

    Maybe the larger problem is the legal fees? Or the rumor that the staff person suing the district was accused of Child Abuse by Connie Hayes and the district did not follow their own policy or State Laws? Maybe these administrators and the BOE are the problem? Just ask, why did so many staff leave the district after Kreutzer descended upon us?

  • reeve1

    Rick, Rick, Rick . . . “the rumor? More innuendo? Allege some facts, or are you afraid of winding up like that wanna-be beauty queen who is paying Trump $5 million?

    To quote, “As the FACE report showed, the district’s finances are under a severe and maybe irreversible strain, almost exclusively because of teachers’ salaries and benefits, which far outstrip every other district in Westchester, including far wealthier districts than ours, such as Scarsdale, Armonk and Chappaqua.”

    Please cit out these despicable tactics and make the concessions that are needed.

    • Richard Morrissey

      You appear very sure that Kreutzer walks on water. If that is the case, why then is history repeating itself here in the KL schools. You would think he would have worked very hard to keep a clean image. But that has failed.

  • michael gordon

    This is important stuff, so maybe a bit of history is in order.

    Long before I joined the BOE, KLSD staff contracts were negotiated by a nice District employee who was not exactly a paragon of hard bargaining. The contracts this amiable chap “negotiated” blessed our staff with salaries, benefits, perks and rights that, as a package, could be found nowhere else: lifetime retiree medical benefits plus salary increases for each single credit of continued education plus automatic salary increases after contract expiration plus tiny health care contribution requirements plus loads of administrative and pedagogical control rights, to name just a few.

    Eventually, it became clear that contract balance had to be restored, and so negotiations were passed to an experienced law firm with a mandate to begin moving the needle back to center. This was done not with animosity or disrespect towards teachers but with an eye towards simple economics and fairness. After 2006, when I joined the BOE, a new contract was signed, one that modified many of the contract terms that were so wildly out of line. That new contract was set to expire on June 30, 2011. But in light of the severe fiscal crisis that came crashing down on our community in 2008, the Board asked the KLDTA to reduce their compensation so that the District could avoid having to lay off staff. Unfortunately, that request was denied. Then, in early 2011, the BOE and the teachers came together on a 2-year interim agreement in which the teachers made a number of concessions that blunted what otherwise would have been substantially increased labor costs. As part of that interim agreement, the BOE and the union were required to meet on a regular basis. Now, the BOE could have walked away from that deal and let the 2006 contract expire if greater concesssions were not obtained. In fact, some board members wanted to do just that. But a majority of the Board believed that no greater concessions were forthcoming and taking at least some salary and benefit reductions, in combination with guaranteed negotiation sessions, would be a better way to get our District closer to a long term solution.

    While tactics can be debated, one thing cannot: throughout the entire six years that I served on the BOE, neither I nor any of my Board colleagues ever framed any collective bargaining issues as for or against teachers or for or against taxpayers. The issues were always framed in terms of how to restore balance to staff contracts that were unsustainable and out of line with what our peer schools here in Westchester County were offering and how to maintain high quality programming.

    I am hopeful that this Board of Education and future Boards will take the same approach. And I am hopeful that our staff and their leaders will recognize that it simply is not possible for this District to continue to award compensation packages that the taxpayers cannot afford and that the tax cap will not allow.

  • Broke

    190k salary for a elementary school principal!? WTF? What are the rest getting paid? Are we forgetting what the unemployment rate is currently? I’m sure we can find suitable candidates that will do the job for half that salary..

  • Evan S.

    The sole problem is a climate of fear. Fear induced and perpetuated by a superintendent who is a bully, he has reportedly sexually harassed individuals and he ran out of town several valued employees. Why does this community hate teachers so much? You all want your children to succeed? Isn’t that right? If you have such little faith in the teachers, just pull your kids out and homeschool them.

  • Glenn DeFaber

    Evan S. no one hates teachers. Maybe we are a little disappointed in the way they have followed their union leadership. This community has always embraced good teachers and the job they do. Did Dr. Kreutzer create the information gathered in the FACE report? If there is any group of people who are stopping our children from succeeding it is the union leadership.

  • waccabucriver

    Salaries and benefits are through the roof. For fun, go to :
    public-school-districts.findthedata.org/
    type in the name of any teacher in the district. A 3rd grade teacher at LES makes $139,000.

  • Dean Travalino

    So Even S, you are anonymous because you are afraid of retribution not because it gives you freedom to hurl unfounded accusations with impunity.

    Yet when it comes to fear and intimidation, who bused-in out-of-town activists to make a zoo of a school board meeting? Who dressed their members in black to protest at elementary schools in the morning traumatizing young children? And who recklessly repeated a web of old, rehashed, unfounded and discounted charges at a televised public meeting against a school district employee living in town with his young family?

  • Robert Dixon

    Hi Mike G.

    RE:This is Important Stuff

    My mommy always taught me not to say “I told you so”-so I won’t.

    Bob D

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