ELIZABETHTOWN - During a school budget season that many describe as unlike any they have ever seen, local teacher unions and associations are in the middle of a battle over cost versus curriculum.
With almost every school in the region looking at dropping staff, leaders said that they are committed to working with the school board and administrators to continue to provide a high level education despite a lowering of a districts funding.
In Westport, Teachers' Association copresident Paul Mudie said that the teachers are working with the board to find ways to save.
"We are proud of the tradition that we have of academic excellence in Westport," Mudie said. "We are hoping to preserve the programs and education that the town has become accustomed to, and I see our role in this process in support of the board in doing those things. We are looking at ways that we can reduce costs and we are coming up with those suggestions for the board."
"We want to make sure that we continue to provide the best possible education for the students of the district," co-president Jack Thompson added.
At AuSable Valley, the school is looking at the loss of as many as 19 teaching positions.
AVCS Teacher Association co-presidents Jennifer Knapp and Denise Sypek said that they are well aware of the situation that they are facing.
"We have high hopes that something in Albany might change but we have been led to believe, from everything that we have seen and from the meetings that we attend, that is not going to happen," Sypek said. "We are expecting layoffs, and it is very sad because we will lose a lot of really great people, and that's tough. I don't envy the board having to make these decisions. It's going to be very difficult."
"I think our super and school board have done a wonderful job over the last few years during difficult budget cycles," Knapp said. "I think that job became 100 percent more difficult this year based on the lack of support for education with the cut in funding coming out of Albany. The board is going to be facing some really tough decisions, but I know that we share a common goal of wanting our students to have the best education we can provide. It's becoming more and more difficult because of the lack of support and funding for education."
Willsboro Teachers' Association President Marilyn Trienens said that the union and the board recently agreed to freeze pay increases for a year, part of a strong working relationship between the two sides.
"We have a budget committee in the district which has union members that represent us in the discussions," Trienens said. "It has been a wonderful board to work with and we were able to settle on a contract. The administration and the board are very supportive of the teachers and they have worked hard up to this point for no cuts in numbers, and we are really appreciative of that."