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School Contracts: Should Seniority Prevail in Port Washington?

As budgets tighten in tough economic times, contracts get more attention.

As school budgets get tighter and districts look for ways meet the state tax cap, some administrators are looking more carefully at employee contracts.

In particular, contracts that set seniority as the key factor in who gets laid off first in tough economic times is getting more scrutiny. Just this week in Huntington, an effort to recommend the elimination of the First In, First Out standard met resistance this week from teachers, and was tabled.

What do you think of seniority rules? Should they be the main standard when it comes to cutting jobs?

If not seniority, how should districts such as Port Washington determine who should stay and who should go? And how should the effectiveness of teachers be judged?

Please tell us in the comments.

Joseph Mirzoeff August 29, 2012 at 11:31 AM
The system shouldn't be able to fire good teachers to save money or to create a patronage spot. That said we need a better way to release teachers who don't belong here. Subjectivity in education also leads to favoritism. The State is finally looking at test scores as one objective measure. We should also use teacher absenteeism in the formula. High teacher absenteeism hurts student education immediately, is expensive, and often shows lack of dedication. We should also be choosing better on the front end, too many get tenure here.
Bryan Jay August 29, 2012 at 12:06 PM
This rule was set up for a reason, and that was to thwart any efforts of administrators to cut the more experienced, and more expensive "senior" teachers. To eliminate this, would be nothing short of union busting. I know something must be done to reduce the budget, but the answer is not to get rid of the more experienced teachers in our system. Teachers have been vilified by the politicians (Gov. Cuomo/Christy) as the reason for the strains in the budgets, but that is not the real reason. They tend to forget that we are still trying to bounce back from a worldwide recession that has impacted the income of these states. Teachers are an easy target as most people under estimate what it takes to be a good dedicated teacher, with the long hours and extra work they do during the year. If we focus just on the cost of the benefits, we are only looking at one piece of the puzzle. Let's not forget that in our teachers hands are the minds of the next generation of Americans, and we are slipping behind on the world stage.
matteo August 29, 2012 at 12:43 PM
Who is the priority? The students or the teachers? Why is there tenure after 3 years? Where is the incentive for teachers to work harder, to do more? In my business, the harder I work, the more hours I put in, the better I service my customners, the more I make. Not so with the union rules. It's a race to do the least, because pay grows regardless of effort. How can we incentive-ize teachers to do more, to be better, and to earn more for their extra efforts? We must think of the children first and foremost. We've hit wall on taxes. Our school taxes are an outrage, they cannot go higher without seriously impacting RE prices; further, the taxpayer cannot bear any more. Let's be progressive, think outside the box, and place the children first, the union fifth.
bob young August 29, 2012 at 01:44 PM
It should be based on job performance
Richard Brody August 29, 2012 at 02:10 PM
In an ideal situation,teachers should solely be evaluation based on quality.However,that being said,how does one protect the qualified,experienced teachers,without being forced to endure and maintain the "dead wood?"How can a new,motivated,terrific younger teacher be protected?The key would be to have a review and evaluation system,with an accelerated appeal process.That would be the optimal position! Then, would the unions accept this change? it's a complicated and important issue to prioritize,along with any and all expenditure issues.
Nassau Taxpayer August 29, 2012 at 02:24 PM
The district has to have the flexibility to get rid of burned-out, dis-interested "teachers" who spend weeks out of the classroom on income-producing second-careers while taunting parents and administrators.
bthebest August 29, 2012 at 02:49 PM
It is a difficult situation, and the education of our children should come first. Unfortunately the system as it stands today does not do that. It actually puts the teachers with seniority first, and at the expense of the taxpayers. As teacher's salaries increase every year so do our taxes. 10 years ago my taxes on a modest house (1250 sq ft) were $6,400, and now $11,000. Where will it end? in another 15 years my taxes will be $20,000....it will make it increasingly difficult to sell your home when you are ready to retire - the prices will come down drastically to accommodate the increase in property taxes, that's just a fact. The bottom line is that "something needs to be done" re: The teacher's unions and contracts, they need a complete overhaul that first and foremost protects the children and also provides teachers with some security but also holds them accountable. After all, there are very few jobs out there that are as secure as a teacher's!
Stephanie L RIch August 29, 2012 at 04:43 PM
Question posed by author "what do you think of seniority rules? Should they be the main standard...?" is virtually pointless. Teacher seniority is protected not just by contract but by state law. Albany would have to act, to get that changed. Union power being what it is in NY, hell will freeze over before that happens.
Stephanie L RIch August 29, 2012 at 04:49 PM
The following comes from "The New 3 R's," (pg 8), published by New York State School Boards Association, you can find it at their website, http://www.nyssba.org/ under "Reports." " When schools are forced to make teacher layoffs, seniority is the sole deciding factor. The so-called “last in, first out” policy is mandated by state law. Imposing layoffs is always a difficult choice and typically the last resort for school leaders. However, if layoffs become necessary, the guiding issue should be what is best for the students. Amending state law to allow schools to consider factors other than seniority – such as teacher performance and credentials – will give schools the ability to retain the most effective instructors when making layoff decisions."
jonathan winant August 29, 2012 at 04:50 PM
It's a very hard call for so many reasons. Richard Brody said it pretty well as did several others. I feel education is all about the skills and results of the educator. Seniority has some place in the choice of who stays or goes but performance ratings need to be taken into account. A long term educator might not be performing well which only hurts the students. I think that the issue of letting teachers and others in education go should be standardized accross the state. Foremost is performance records.
jonathan winant August 29, 2012 at 04:52 PM
The same should hol;d true for school administrators and district supervisors if they do not live up to the exp[ectations that were in place when they were hired then they should move on. This holds true to so many areas of employement. The pay scale has a lot to do with performance or lack of it.
Howard Blankman August 29, 2012 at 04:53 PM
The only constant here is the needs of the students. If possible, teachers, who have seniority and can provide their students with the kind of teaching necessary as well as anyone else, should not be the first victims of cost cutting. However, the best teachers never stop learning. The best teachers understand that teaching must reflect a knowledge of life as it is beyond the school. They must also demand the kind of behavior from their students that sometimes their parents don't. A child or young person moving on in education without social skills is made to face the future with one hand tied behind his back. I'm not referring to knowing which fork or spoon to use at the dinner table, but everyone should know not to blow his or her nose on her napkin. Students must be taught how to listen. One cannot absorb knowledge unless he or she is made to realize the value of listening, rather than the value of hearing. It goes without saying that both teachers and students must understand that civility is worth the trouble. The best teachers understand that students will pay more attention to teachers they respect -- and respect begins with empathy. The best teachers should be the last to go whether they have seniority or not!
jonathan winant August 29, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Bryan I think your missing an important factor. Seniority does not always mean more experienced or make an employee a better one. Education is about educating and if your not performing then your not living up to the qualifications needed to continue to hold your job. A mechanic who continuously has customers complaining gets fired. A coach with a bad record does not stay with that team very long (in most cases).
Howard Blankman August 29, 2012 at 05:10 PM
As an addenda to my previous comment, I focused on teachers and their seniority considerations. If you were seeking comments on the seniority of school administrators, that requires a different kind of attention and thought. However, my response is the following: The school board has a responsible to seek and recommend to the community the best possible administrative staff, they can assemble — from top to bottom — and the community can afford. Seniority should have nothing to do with it.
Howard Blankman August 29, 2012 at 05:13 PM
See my previous two comments. I hope you did delete the second one.
Joe Campbell August 29, 2012 at 06:43 PM
Seniority should not be the basis for layoff considerations. The sub title, "As budgets tighten in tough economic times, contracts get closer attention" suggests that school boards must get away from multi-year contracts and reduce the amount of yearly longevity raises. The absence clause in the staff contracts must be addressed. Most teachers should have fewer than 10 absences a year since it impacts student performance. Governor Cuomo wants principal salaries to average around $175,000. Port Washington paid its superintendent over $319,000 in 2011. And here we are in 2012. School salaries are out of whack for struggling property owners.
rino candela August 29, 2012 at 06:44 PM
there are so many good teachers to hire get rid of the old in with the new sorry 10,500 for school taxes and no kids in the discrict is insane
rino candela August 29, 2012 at 06:45 PM
between library and the school discrict we all need to move theres no einsteins coming out of our district
jonathan winant August 29, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Rino Your comment is irrelavant to the issue at hand.
Joseph Mirzoeff August 29, 2012 at 07:08 PM
the common denominator in rino's comment (frustration) and the issue at hand is that government increasingly serves itself rather than the public.
Frank Russo August 30, 2012 at 03:07 PM
The current "rules" are last in-first out.. This is clearly NOT in the best interest of students. Layoffs should be based on performance. Teacher performance is increasingly going to come into play, based on changes in Albany policies . Teacher performance should be based on (a) rating awarded by the principal or AP(b) on evaluations of peer teachers---most teachers are fair-minded and will give honest evaluations of fellow teachers, (c) student performance on key tests; (d) surveys conducted on a random basis of parents of K-8th graders and HS parents and students . Seniority can be given a small weighting as well, so as not to penalize higher paid teachers whose performance is close to lower paid ones. .Our organization, the Port Wash. Educ. Assembly--PWEA-- is trying to keep tax increases reasonable while keeping educ. quality high. If you want to get on our mailing list, send your name and address to PWEA, PO Box 203, Port Wash., NY 11050. Frank J. Russo, Jr
Wandell Thomas August 30, 2012 at 11:22 PM
The students suffer, but the TOP ADMINISTRATORS paycheck continues to increase. There is something wrong with this picture!!
Diane Pape August 31, 2012 at 06:09 PM
There are too many crazy parents out there to get rid of tenure so we must have tenure or ele the teachers would be vulnerable to these "I'll have your job" psycho parents. I am a single mother get NO support and these school taxes are killing me. The Port Washington Schools are over-rated they are good NOT outstanding but good. I say do something for the tax-payer get rid of ALl the lazy overpaid teachers in port keep the younger lower pay teachers.

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