Letter to the Editor - June 8

June 08, 2011

Vote against schools agreement was difficult decision

To the editor:

I am proud of the teachers, administrators and support staff that work for the Greencastle-Antrim School District. It is their daily pride and hard work that make our schools a prized focal point for our community.

On June 2, I did not vote for the memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the district and the teachers union. My decision to vote against the agreement was a difficult decision, and should in no way be considered a negative reflection on the great teachers, guidance counselors, librarians and other professionals covered by this agreement. Unfortunately, my concern is that the district has made a financial promise that will be very difficult to fulfill without significant cuts to programs, extracurricular offerings and other scholastic items the community desires. This is especially important to me as the professional staff have met, discussed and bargained in good faith.

At Greencastle-Antrim, we are truly blessed that we can afford to pay our teachers an average of $6,000 to $8,000 more per year than neighboring districts. But now, with the school board’s approval of an additional 9 percent raise over three years, how will this be funded? Will significant tax increases be necessary in an economic environment still reeling from high unemployment and rising fuel-related costs? What happens if the state requires us to place a property tax increase on a ballot and taxpayers vote it down?

Starting next year, the state and federal government have both decreased their funding of our schools. I wish that I knew where the additional revenue will be obtained to cover these promises — especially since the preliminary budgets show a significant deficit over the next several years.

Additionally, this agreement also limits the administration’s managerial flexibility by guaranteeing — for three years — all professional positions, except in cases of retirement or resignation. This limited administrative flexibility also applies to the MOU’s requirement that approximately 20 support staff aide positions are now protected through the agreement.

In closing, I believe it is essential to ensure that our school district is able to find balance between providing a world-class education for our community, rewarding our teachers and being fiscally able to afford our promises.

Eric Holtzman
Greencastle-Antrim School Board member

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