ELIZABETHTOWN - Teachers at Elizabethtown-Lewis Central School are taking steps to share with district residents their frustrations with the school's proposed budget.
More than two dozen teachers representing the ELCS Teachers' Association held a meeting May 4 at the Elizabethtown Fire Department, drawing nearly 50 residents to hear their concerns.
The proposed budget, adopted at the board's April 19 meeting, includes a plan to cut four elementary teacher positions and a half-time Spanish teacher position. The overall expenditures would decrease 1.25 percent to achieve a zero-percent increase in the tax levy.
"We feel the budget changes are going to negatively affect our students," said the Teacher's Association in a prepared statement read by Physical Education teacher Paul Beuhler. "Our goal... is to have our tax money spent in a more responsible way."
Many residents echoed the teachers' concerns that the instructional positions were cut without any significant cuts to other areas of the budget. All five of the teachers who would be reduced are tenured with at least five years of experience each.
"We definitely feel it should have been the last option," said Sally Wachowski, a sixth grade teacher and co-president of the Teachers' Association. "My feeling is, when you make cuts, you need to make them from the top down and across the board."
Many of the teachers also noted frustration with a lack of communication from the school's administration and school board, claiming they didn't seek to work cooperatively with staff and parents.
Math teacher Deborah Egglefield said Superintendent Gail Else met with teachers in small groups to gather suggestions for areas to cut spending, but many of the suggestions were not included in the proposed budget.
"When we asked if there would be any cuts, we were specifically told there would be no cuts," Wachowski said. "Nobody came to us at all."
While some of the teachers questioned why the board insisted on a flat-levy budget, others said there are simply better ways to cut spending than to lay off teachers.
By cutting four elementary teachers, class sizes are expected to double to an average of 19. While that may be common in some schools, the teachers argued, it makes differentiated instruction much more difficult.
"Smaller class sizes suit this school," they said in their statement.
Many residents present echoed the desire to see changes take place in the proposed budget.
"We need to get our voices heard and direct the board and ask them to review the budget before it gets put out to vote," said Jim Monty.
"When I went to school, we had over 30 students in a classroom," said Lisa Whalen. "I know other schools are doing it with 20-plus kids, but do I want E'town to be like those other schools? No!"
ELCS Superintendent Gail Else could not be reached for comment before the publication of this article.