A special meeting to vote on the Kingston School Districts radical redistricting plan was set and announced in Monday’s Daily Freeman. At the same time, Superintendent Paul Padalino announced that $152,000 in transportation cost savings would be derived from his plan. Just one piece of the puzzle, according to Dr. Padalino. That is no small amount of money, to be sure, but it’s nowhere near the nearly $5 million annually promised by the Superintendent as he unveiled parts of the plan. Without at least a decent estimate of the rest of the projected economic benefits available to the public, I thought it imprudent for the Board to vote on the plan.
Since then, I’ve found the Redistricting Recommendation to the Board of Education page on the School district website. Click on the link here and you can follow to the “Frequently Asked Questions”, where you find these estimates.
What is the breakdown of the savings gained through this redistricting plan? 30 FTE teachers – $3,000,000 4 Teacher Assistants – $200,00 3 Administrators – $450,000 12 FS/Lunch Monitors – $360,000 3 Clerical – $150,000 Buildings (cost of operation) – $600,000 Total – $4,760,000 X 5 = $23,800,000
Since this is for consideration of the 2013-2014 school and fiscal years, the $4.76 million does not close this year’s estimated $6.2 million budget gap, and Dr. Padalino recognizes that, saying the plans and savings are “a piece of the puzzle, not the entire solution.”
Which schools close, and why, are not part of this small discussion today. Tremendous controversy has surrounded the discussion of every school on the list since the subject of closings was broached nearly three years ago. As late as this week, Esopus and Rosendale officials started floating secession proposals while discussing the closing of Anna Devine Elementary. The truth is, all school supporters have equally valid and compelling reasons why their schools should not close, and consensus in this forum is not likely.
Facing the facts of a shrinking school population and tax base demand that we shrink the physical plant and work force to match, we are left with the reality that some buildings must close.
What concerns me most is that the vast majority of savings put forth result from firing 52 people. The teachers, being the largest part of the workforce, and the largest part of the budget, account for over half of the projected savings from the closings. Three Administrators (I am guessing Principals) will be eliminated from the system. eighteen Clerical Workers, Teachers Assistants, and FS/Lunchroom Monitors finish out the list. Only $600,000 come from closing the buildings.
Most people, when asked in poll after poll, think we should be cutting the size of government. In fact, over the last 42 months, our nation’s economy has netted over 4 million new private sector jobs, but lost over 800,000 government jobs. These are the government jobs we are losing. They work in schools, they collect garbage, and they put out fires. They answer emergency calls, patrol our nights, and supply our water. They fix our streets, register our vehicles, and defend our shores.
Whatever you believe about private sector vs. public sector, you must agree that jobs are the lifeblood of our economy. Combined with the 92 cuts for 2012-2013, the 52 scheduled for next year cry out that we are hemorrhaging. We can’t change past wounds to our district’s health, but we can do something to stanch the flow in the future.
In discussion last week, Dr. Padalino said that he and the Kingston Teachers Federation are working out the specifics of the Teacher Evaluation Systems. He expects those talks to wind up shortly after the coming school year begins. After that, he is optimistic that there are no major impediments to negotiating the Kingston Teachers Federation contract. That contract, as well as the Administrative Supervisory Personnel Association (School Principals and Administrators) contract, have been expired for over a year. Dr. Padalino is calling the coming contract negotiations the “next piece of the puzzle.”
When hired, The Superintendent was offered a contract that included major concessions from his predecessor’s. He takes nearly 15% less salary, pays 50% more for his insurance costs, has fewer vacation and sick days, receives no pay for unused sick time upon separation, and trades the district-provided car and use allowance for a mileage reimbursement. At the time, he says, aware of the economic realities of our time and place, he accepted without negotiation. In doing so, Dr. Padalino began his journey to improving what we have and turning around what has been headed the wrong direction.
The KTF, the ASPA, and the Superintendent can now take the next step together. We can not lose any more people. For every job saved, you help save a home. For every home saved, a neighborhood is one family closer to a comeback. If a neighborhood comes back, more kids come back to school. And, if more kids come back, we can hire more teachers and staff to guide them on their way. You helped earlier this year, by negotiating a return of $1.1 million, almost 4% of your insurance premium. Taxpayers, you included, thank you for that. But, as with the transportation savings, there is still a long way to go. You are the people who can save your colleagues’ jobs, you are the people who can do the most to prevent even more closings.
Dr. Padalino says that he thinks the union membership and its leaders are aware of the same economic realities he saw when he accepted his position. We all expect both sides to bargain in good faith, with real concern for the students, the employees, and the taxpayers. In short, everyone has a stake. In recognition of that, I encourage all parties to bargain openly. Do not bargain through the media, but keep us all apprised of progress and terms under discussion. It will go a long way toward rebuilding a badly damaged two-way trust. Let’s start building here.