Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Peekskill Herald

Hendrick Hudson Teachers Oppose Current Board of Education Majority


To the Editor:

This past December, a five member majority of the Hendrick Hudson Board of Education (BOE) voted 5-2, for the second time in three years, to reorganize the district’s three elementary schools. This decision was an incredibly bad one — it will reinstitute systemic inequality in regards to race and socioeconomic status in our schools, will allocate taxpayer money improperly, and was made in direct dismissal of the opinion of the teachers who do the job of teaching and nurturing the students of the Hendrick Hudson School District.

Because of this abjectly inappropriate decision, as President of The Hendrick Hudson Education Association (HHEA), I aided nine community members to file a formal complaint under Article 310 to the New York State Commissioner of Education Betty Rosa to request she stop this ridiculousness. Though our chances to stop them were slim, we moved forward because it was the right thing to do — and we were tired of being disrespected.

The Hendrick Hudson School District faces a perilous future, and deserves to have community members serving on the BOE that will set the district on a course of financial and educational stability. Because of the closing of the Indian Point Power Plant, the district faces an approximately $25 million per year shortfall in revenue in just five years. This BOE has wasted taxpayer money instead of investing it, and has chosen an elementary school plan that no one wanted. Taxes will have to be raised considerably or cuts will be made to balance the district’s books.

In just two short school years, this five member BOE majority has thrown an already struggling school district into disarray. I would like to provide some context: in those two school years, this BOE has:

  • Forced out the former superintendent, costing taxpayers $250,000;
  • Completely dismissed their teachers — approximately 80% of ElementarySchool Teachers indicated in a survey they wished to keep the Princeton Plan, the current (and fairest, most economical) elementary school structure; 90% stated the Princeton Plan needed more time to be evaluated;
  • Made little effort to reach out to the exponentially growing Hispanic population in the community about this massive change;
  • Hired an interim superintendent at $1600 per day, then paid the same person $1600 per day as a consultant when a new full-time superintendent was hired. This person was paid close to $200,000 to shepherd in the BOE’s “Plan B”;
  • Budgeted another $250,000 to provide “white glove service” to move the elementary school teachers’ belongings — again — from one building to another;
  • Decreased the number of teachers while adding administrators — at a projected cost of over $400,000;
  • Provided a retirement incentive to Central Office Administrators that will cost at least $250,00 but may be up to $400,000. One particular administrator is set to receive possibly more than $250,000 alone. These payouts provide no savings to the district. A retirement incentive for teachers, however, is a proven way to save money in a school budget;

• Increased the pay of other administrators by 10% or more — at least four administrators saw pay increases of close to $20,000 / year.

• Completely and utterly disrespected its teachers in public, making egregious accusations and disparagements about the work teachers do.

This has all happened during a time when the district is approaching dire financial straits, and has not taken care of its teachers. Wages and benefits have stagnated. Since 2009, the HHEA has taken seven (!) pay freezes to its salary scale, and has never seen an increase that even matched inflation (it will have increased just 8.5% over the fifteen year period). Other concessions were made during that time as well. Since 2015, the school district has also been drunk on hiring consultants, spending more than $1.5 million on “experts” instead of rewarding the prodigious homegrown talent of its teachers — teachers have been spoken at, rather than given the opportunity to create and collaborate. Our elementary schools were one of only a handful in NY State to be fully open during COVID.

This lack of respect has led to low morale among teachers, and for good reason — it is now a financially more sound decision as a young person to work for UPS than to get a teaching degree and work for The Hendrick Hudson School District. Many excellent, young teachers have left the district to neighboring, stable, and better compensating districts.

This happened over the past two decades partly because of decisions made by New York state and former BOE’s, but the truth of the matter remains: the teachers of The Hendrick Hudson School District deserve respect, and the members of the community deserve to have their hard-earned money spent fairly and appropriately — not just on payouts for administrators and consultants, but as investments for the hard work and dedication the teachers and other staff —teacher aides, secretaries, security guards and custodians — show for the students, parents, and community year after difficult year. For a school district to remain healthy and viable in modern America, it needs to attract and retain talented professionals. As it stands now, this BOE is acting in direct opposition to this.

James Rogulski
Hendrick Hudson Education Association