Mattituck sees titanic money woes

12/17/2010 2:33 PM |

BETH YOUNG PHOTO | Jerry Diffley and Jim McKenna at last month's school board meeting.

Imagine Mattituck-Cutchogue school administrators as officers on a ship’s bridge. They see an iceberg dead ahead.

District Superintendent James McKenna is pretty certain that by the time next year’s budget talks are in the works, the administration and School Board will be at the helm of the Titanic.
At last Thursday’s board meeting, Mr. McKenna said that a perfect storm of contractual increases in teacher salaries, major hikes in pension and health insurance costs, coupled with a decrease in state aid and a potential 2 percent tax increase cap proposed by Governor-Elect Andrew Cuomo, could sink the district, or at least send some of its teachers into the icy waters of unemployment.

“There were members of the staff on the Titanic who knew there were not enough lifeboats to preserve all the people on the ship,” he said. “We could be cutting 10 teachers. That wouldn’t surprise me, let alone programs. This is serious business.”

He added that the state is planning to charge schools for administering Regents exams next year at a potential cost of $5,500 to $12,000, depending on whether those costs are calculated per student or per test taken.

Mr. McKenna said that the district’s state aid will be cut by $235,000, while increases in teacher salaries alone would likely bring the district’s budget and the tax increase needed to fund it to the proposed 2 percent property tax cap being talked about in Albany.

Earlier that day he attended a meeting of local superintendents who believe Mr. Cuomo is serious about instituting the tax cap.

“At the meeting, I could feel the noose tightening,” he said. “I’m not so sure people really understand. I just don’t think they understand what that really means. … There could be cuts to this district of $500,000 and up.”

Sports discussion postponed

A large group of parents and educators who are in favor of “selection classification,” a set of state guidelines allowing junior high students to play sports at the high school level, came to Thursday night’s meeting. They had intended to present their feelings on the issue, but held off after School Board president Jerry Diffley reported that the board would hold a community discussion on selection classification at its next meeting January 20.

Going paperless

Parents who are waiting anxiously by their mailboxes for their high school students’ interim progress reports can see them by logging onto the internet.

Mattituck High School is planning to make the reports entirely paperless by the end of this year, said Principal Shawn Petretti at Thursday’s board meeting.

Reports can be accessed by setting up a parent account through the “Parent Portal” tab on the district’s website,

Mr. Petretti said the progress reports will not include comments on students’ progress, but will simply show a grade point average for the students’ work so far this quarter. He anticipates that by the time the full second quarter report is due in January, parents will be able to view all of their children’s’ scores online.

“We’ll take the plunge and see where it goes,” said Mr. Petretti of the high school’s plan to go paperless. “At the end of the quarter in January, I’m hoping we can open up the whole grade book so parents can see scores for the second quarter.”

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24 Comment

  • This is an early indication of the nosedive our economy will take as costs of pensions, health insurance, mandated salary increases for school system employees and decreased state aid take effect.

    If we want a competitive education system in this country, we’ll have to pay for it. So far, as the old magic eight ball says, “Signs point to no.”

    That’s why there is a renewed push for school consolidation.

    We have to make up our minds and decide on our real priorities.

  • This is an ideal time to fire 20% of the districts workforce. Let them go out into the REAL world and learn how productivity is in direct proportion to what you are worth. The children will still learn as before, if they want to. The remaining staff will learn to manage the increased workload. If they don’t, then fire them too. This is how the REAL work world works. America, love it or leave it.

  • I don’t think that 20% of the district workforce would have to be fired. If only one or two of the highly paid administrators were terminated, that would save the meat and potato’s ( the workforce). Get rid of some of the gravy—(the highly paid administrators).

  • “The children will still learn as before, if they want to.” Just like in the real world Ford can produce as many cars if they fire 20% of the people who make the cars. Now who’s not living in the real world. Sorry someone didn’t do a better job educating you.

  • Your education has taught you to equate a child’s progressive learning with that of an automated assembly line. I would demand a tuition refund and subsequent shock therapy so as to purge your mind.

  • As a future educator I am staying in PA. Here in Pennsylvania budgets don’t get voted on by the public so you don’t see people being wheeled in on wheelchairs. It’s sad that a lot of Mattituck-Cutchogue residents do not appreciate our schools. Teachers here in York County are getting paid the same starting salary as teachers at MHS… Do you see something wrong with this? I feel that we should not be firing teachers because smaller class sizes are the ideal learning environment for our children. Lets hope the community will keep voting for the budget so we don’t go on austerity like we did when I was in school!

  • If only you knew what work went into being a teacher… a large percentage of teachers leave within the first year because they are burnt out. I am student teaching next semester and have to have a lesson plan for everyday, contact parents, make tests, grade tests, make hw, grade hw, differentiate my instruction to specific Individualized Education Plans, Classroom management. I need a masters degree within 6 years, and every 5 years i need 180 hours of professional development… It would be MUCH easier to be in the REAL WORLD or so you call it.

  • We all work. Details are boring. The fact remains that people that work for any government agency produce nothing other than a job for the next government worker. If we all worked for the government, nothing would be produced and society would crumble. Production in any tangible form keeps humanity fed, clothed and housed. Government then holds a gun to every taxpayers head and demands tribute. No tribute you go to jail. Public schools in this country produce young citizens that can not do basic math, can not tell you what ocean you would be looking at if standing on the shore of any beach in California, have no idea how to manage money, think that credit cards are what buys things, in short ignorance is what graduates and common sense is never taught. I wish you luck in your chosen career, just don’t ask me to pay for it.

  • In the REAL WORLD there is no tenure. Usually there is no paid health insurance. There are no guaranteed pensions. In the REAL WORLD you work more than 180 days for your salary. In the REAL WORLD there are no automatic pay increases, and getting more education does not ensure step increases. Do you hear that music? It’s me playing my tiny violin for you. In the real world people work hard, too.

  • Have you seen Mattituck test scores??? They know a lot more than you think…. We live in a country where its constitutional to have an income tax… have public education… if you don’t like public education then move to Africa!

  • Mybe it’s time for the district to cut unneeded expenses. How many lawsuits are currently in Federal Court? What is that costing us?

  • Do your research. The income tax was not ratified by a majority of the states. It is in fact not constitutional. Your education shows your ignorance. Don’t believe me, look it up . Then get back to your educators and educate them.

  • Fine don’t pay for it. But then don’t use anything that is “produced” by educating our young citizens. Any doctor, lawyer, mechanic, bank teller, author, farmer, etc that used their knowledge from public education to help make your town safer, more productive, wealthy, or generally a nice place to live is exactly what gets “produced” by the government. I’d be happy to allow you to opt out (call it a public option if you like) but then you don’t get what you didn’t pay for.

  • The key word of the day is PUBLIC. Don’t confuse education with public education. Privately run schools are more efficient and produce better educated and prepared citizens without unions running roughshod over the taxpayers. I’m not against education, I’m against tenure, guaranteed by statute pensions, overpaid teachers, overpaid administrators, student teacher ratios of less than 35 to 1, taxpayer funded extracurricular, benefit plans that far exceed private industry, politically at the moment curriculum, no child left behind, teachers brainwashing students to their own way of thought , tracking students that are perceived to be less adept into the trades, pushing students that should be left back ahead just to make the numbers appear better. These are the hallmarks of our PUBLIC education system spearheaded by the federal Dept. of Education whose sole purpose is to act upon the whims of whoever is in office at any one time. A REFORMATION IS NEEDED.

  • What income tax is unconstitutional? if you are talking federal income tax you are out of your mind to keep riding that dead horse.

  • Just a couple thoughts for the board….

    1. stop writing contracts for teachers that include both a step pay increase and a base increase.
    2. health care is a driver in costs and perhaps Mr. Obama’s health care will help but that is several years out. Most every business has had to make adjustments in this area and you should too.
    3. It is nice that the schools here offer a diversity of athletic options for the kids. However if you want to get the community’s attention on school finances propose that sports be cut until the financial picture brightens.

    This “oh oh ice berg ahead” means little to most people and is just more crying wolf. You really might consider standing up and running the schools like a business.

  • That is doubtful. Real world is 245+ work days a year and 9 hours. I’ve taught for a dozen years and worked in the real world for 30. Get a grip.

  • reformation? there was one 500 years back and it was religious. otherwise no one has any idea what you are talking about. i don’t anyway but then again you lost me with the income tax thing.

  • 42 of the states (well above the 3/4ths required) ratified the amendment in 1913. what? no civics class in your high school?

  • The economy has been in a serious down turn for awhile. There are many who have lost their jobs or have had their income reduced sharply. The student population has decreased yet once again we are being told that drastic changes and cuts will be required to fix this dire situation. Let me explain to the school board powers to be…. We dont care anymore! Enough is enough, When you began building that monster expansion we voiced our concerns only to be drowned out by you. The New Governor is enacting a 2% tax cap and the rest of New york will deal with that. I suggest you learn to do the same. If the School board cant seem to tighten their belts like the rest of us have to , Perhaps it’s time for their departure!

  • Great story Sam! and great ending.

  • Really, teachers in York are making the same as in Mattituck Cutchogue? Are you also getting a 35% increase in raises over the next 5 or so years, like they are? If so, get ready for the revolution where you are too!

  • TWells, I hope you don’t teach social studies. Public education is not paid for by an income tax. Perhaps it would be fairer if it was.