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Batavia Teachers' Association

May 28, 2020 - 5:46pm

There will be no change in the daily schedule for students at the four Batavia City School District buildings.

“After thoughtful consideration and collaboration over the last six weeks, the members of the Batavia Teachers’ Association voted against a proposal to change the start and end times at all district buildings,” BTA President Mark Warren said following today's online voting by union members.

District administration had suggested the change during the 2020-21 budget process, maintaining that the proposed starting and ending times would save $200,000 in transportation costs. The outcome of the vote will not affect the passed budget.

With the “no” vote by the teachers, the school day will continue as follows:

-- Batavia High and Batavia Middle, 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.

-- John Kennedy Elementary and Jackson Primary, 8:15 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

The proposal called for BHS and BMS to be on 7:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. schedule, and for JK and Jackson to be on a 9 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. schedule.

Warren said he exit polls revealed two main concerns.

“The current research on sleep patterns and the school day for teenagers supports a later start time for secondary students, and concerns were also expressed over modifying the students’ schedule in the midst of all of the changes going on due to the pandemic,” Warren said.

He said the BTA’s goal moving forward is “to work collaboratively with district administration as we determine the best path to reopen the school buildings in the fall to ensure the safety of students and employees.”

Warren said all four building votes would have had to be favorable for the measure to pass, but indicated that it was rejected at all four schools.

May 23, 2020 - 9:42am

As the Batavia City School District’s Board of Education worked to reach its goal of a 2020-21 budget with no property tax rate increase, tough decisions had to be made -- most notably the need to cut a significant number of jobs.

At its April 28th meeting, the board announced an across-the-board reduction of at least 30 positions, including administrators, teachers, aides and clerical staff.

Earlier this week, the board passed a $51.4 million spending plan and, according to Business Administrator Scott Rozanski, the impact of those cuts, when converting them to “full-time equivalents,” isn’t as severe as originally believed.

Rozanski today said that 10 of the 33 FTE positions removed from the budget are reductions to existing staff, with seven teachers and one clerical employee losing their jobs. The other two of those 10 FTEs are vacant positions in administration that won’t be filled, he said.

“So, technically, eight permanent employees are affected at this point in time,” Rozanski said.

The remainder of the reductions is as follows:

-- Five FTE via retirements;
-- Seven and a half FTE via resignations;
-- Ten FTE via long-term substitute assignments ending June 30;
-- One half FTE via reductions to the budget (contracted new position).

A public hearing on the budget is scheduled for the board’s next meeting at 6 p.m. June 2, and voting will take place by paper ballot on June 9. Ballots were mailed to all eligible voters and must be returned (in a provided postage-paid envelope) by 5 p.m. June 9th to be considered.

The public also will vote on a $619,151 capital project to construct an age-appropriate playground at Jackson Primary School, he said.

In a related development, the Batavia Teachers’ Association will vote next Thursday (May 28) on a proposal to change the school day schedule. 

BTA President Mark Warren said today that voting by employees who work at the four district schools will take place by an online balloting system, and results will be available that evening.

“Each of the four buildings will have separate votes and if they all vote in favor of it, then it will pass,” Warren said.

If approved, it reportedly would save the district about $200,000 in transportation costs.

The proposed schedule change is as follows:

 -- Putting Batavia High and Batavia Middle on a 7:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. schedule. Currently, the schedule at those two schools is 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.

-- Putting John Kennedy and Jackson on a 9 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. schedule. Currently, the schedule at those two schools is 8:15 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

May 1, 2020 - 9:50am

The Batavia Teachers’ Association has postponed a vote on a proposal to modify the school day at the four Batavia City School District buildings.

BTA President Mark Warren on Thursday night said that the vote – actually four separate votes by those who work at Batavia High, Batavia Middle, John Kennedy Intermediate and Jackson Primary schools – will not take place today as originally planned.

“We want to work out some of the wrinkles and provide answers to the questions that some of our members have before voting,” Warren said. “We haven’t set a new date yet, but it will not be before the next Board of Education meeting on May 5th.”

School Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. raised the possibility of changing the school day schedules earlier this week as a cost-cutting measure as the district maneuvers to close what once was a $1.6 million budget gap.

Soler said that $200,000 in transportation costs would be achieved by the following:

-- Putting Batavia High and Batavia Middle on a 7:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. schedule. Currently, the schedule at those two schools is 8 a.m. to 2:45 p.m.

-- Putting John Kennedy and Jackson on a 9 a.m. to 3:15 p.m. schedule. Currently, the schedule at those two schools is 8:15 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

This would enable the district to use fewer buses across the four schools, a tiered approach that also would give every student in the district the opportunity to ride a bus if they so desired, Soler said.

On Tuesday night, the Board of Education authorized the cutting of 30 positions to slash more than $1.5 million in expenses.

A favorable vote on the school day schedule – in all likelihood all four buildings would have to pass it -- would enable the district to wash away a $47,000 budget shortfall and meet the state-mandated property tax cap, thus avoiding a 60-percent plus one supermajority vote of the public to pass the budget.

Contacted this morning, BOE President Pat Burk said he hadn’t heard about the vote postponement, but didn’t think that would affect the board’s plan to vote on the budget on Tuesday.

“Actually, we have been looking at areas other than personnel to find another $47,000 to cut,” Burk said. “The vote to change the school day schedule, if passed, would provide extra funding that we likely will need down the road not knowing what is going to happen with state aid.”

Burk said he thinks changing the schedules could help attendance, since all students would be able to get a ride to school, and have little impact upon extracurricular afterschool activities such as sports and music.

April 21, 2020 - 8:09am

The Batavia City School District is facing the possibility of cutting up to 9 percent of its staff to close a $1.9 million gap in its 2020-21 budget.

Superintendent Anibal Soler Jr. on Monday said that up to 30 employees – from administrators to part-time clerical workers – may have to be laid off as a result of the Board of Education’s decision to deliver a final budget with little or no property tax increase.

“The original plan was to propose a tax cap override, with a 2.66 percent property tax increase that would have meant (an additional) $60 per year for a home assessed at $100,000,” Soler said. “Now it’s gone up to 9 percent, which is not possible. The board’s position is to have a zero percent tax increase, especially with so many people losing their jobs.”

Longtime Board President Patrick Burk concurred, adding that seeking a tax cap override – and the 60 percent plus one vote to pass – would put the budget in jeopardy and “undermine any stability that we could give for the coming year.”

Soler said the district was looking at a shortfall of about $1.5 million when he was hired in January. That number grew by another $400,000 (less state aid) when the New York State budget was adopted earlier this month.

The initial $1.5 million deficit is directly related to personnel expenditures, Business Administrator Scott Rozanski said.

“The increase in salary from the rollover of current staffing and the collective bargaining agreements and benefits associated with payroll” are key factors in the gap, Rozanski said, adding that the COVID-19 impact has yet to be fully determined.

Additional state aid cuts approaching?

He said that because the state also foresees a budget shortfall projected to be as high as $15 million, there could be more school aid cuts down the road.

“The state has set four separate measurement periods where state aid could be adjusted,” Rozanski explained. “Locally, we will need to put more resources towards cleaning and our technology needs will change as our instructional program changes. Next year will not be a normal year. Everything we do will be evaluated and potentially impacted.”

In an effort to avoid large-scale layoffs for the next fiscal year, which starts on July 1, Soler said that he asked the Batavia Teachers’ Association to consider a one-year pay freeze. About 70 percent of the district’s expenses are related to payroll and fringe benefits.

“My priorities are, one, no increases in taxes to the community; second, balancing our budget and (third) trying to protect people during what are unprecedented times that we haven’t seen since the situation we had in 2008 with the economic fall nationally,” Soler said.

As it stands now, Soler may be able to accomplish two of those three objectives because the teachers’ union declined to accept his call for a wage freeze.

Soler: Seeking ‘to protect teachers’

“When I spoke to the union president, I was told that they were not interested in discussing any options regarding a pay freeze. My understanding is that they didn’t even put it out there for their members to vote,” Soler said.

“I had to ask it before I went through the process. Would you be willing to take a pay freeze so that we can protect teachers and not lay off somebody who just came into the profession – first- and second-year teachers? Now, I may not be able to protect people with these additional adjustments,” he said. “I thought I was going to be in a pretty good spot if we were to have taken a pay freeze and protected the entire workforce – at least guaranteed them employment into next year and see what these adjustments look like from the governor.”

Soler said that the average salary with benefits for the district’s educators was around $80,000, with first-year teachers’ total compensation package valued at $64,000. “Some are making over $100,000,” he said, while some administrators earn substantially more than that.

Burk said he also was hoping that the union would agree to what he called a “one-year extension of what currently is in its contract.”

“I was told that the teachers didn’t vote on it … it was just decided that that was not going to be part of the discussion,” Burk said. “If we can’t come up with payroll lessening by wage freeze, we have to look at other areas. But that doesn’t come up with the $1.5 million that is required at this time.”

BTA President: Don’t pin this on us

Mark Warren, president of the Batavia Teachers’ Association, said the burden of correcting the budget gap shouldn’t rest on the shoulders of the union, which is completing the first year of a three-year contract.

“All I know is that before state (aid) runs came out, before they decided not to go with a tax levy increase, they already had a deficit (for 2020-21),” Warren said. “They were talking about that at the budget ambassador meetings prior to the closure. They’re going to say that flat state aid is part of it, but they were already talking deficit before state aid was flat.”

Warren, a math teacher in is 16th year at Batavia, said he discussed the proposal with membership, but the feeling was that the request wasn’t justified.

“When they first brought it up, he (Soler) mentioned that we have added 30 or so teachers in the last eight or nine years, while enrollment has basically stayed flat. He characterized it as an overstaffing issue in the beginning and then asked for a pay freeze after that,” he said.

“To be clear, the only real proposal was ‘I’m going to lay off a bunch of people if you don’t take a pay freeze.’ If we are overstaffed like he claimed in the beginning, then why would we take a pay freeze so that we’d be overstaffed a year from now? It’s not like we’re suddenly going to get this influx of students where we are going to need another 20 extra teachers, where we don’t need them now. If we are overstaffed now, we’d be overstaffed a year from now.”

Burk said that roughly 30 positions could be cut, with the dollar amount of those cuts to be determined by the next board meeting on April 28.

Executive vs. open session discussions

Soler said that position cuts were discussed in executive session at a recent meeting, a move that was appropriate since it focused on specific people in some cases.

“Some of the positions are standalone positions, so there’s only one person attached to it. So that’s why that we didn’t discuss them publicly,” he said. “The next time we meet you’ll probably see more of a public discussion around that only because the board would have had the opportunity to process that, make some recommendations and give me some guidance. So, I’ll be going in and trying to adhere to that guidance.”

The superintendent also said his request for a pay freeze was discussed in an open session, but there was no talk of changes to the union’s contract.

“What I asked them to do was, if you want to help us avoid layoffs, we would love for you to take a pay freeze for the year. That was the only contract item that was discussed, and that would not be something that would require to reopen their contract,” he said. “If all of our employees, if all of our bargaining units were not to take a pay increase, it would save the district $1.5 million. And I even included myself it that conversation. I would not take an increase as well.”

Staff cuts to be across the board

With a moratorium on pay increases off the table, Burk said the board is taking steps to reduce expenses on a department-by-department basis.

“As far as specific positions, we haven’t gotten into that, but we have said what we would do with specific departments,” he said. “This is going all the way across the board. This is administrators being cut, teachers, teacher aides, custodial, food service, clerical. It’s everybody.”

The board is proceeding judiciously, Burk said.

“Our goal is to have the highest contact with students and the greatest impact with students that we possibly can,” he stated. “Cuts would be people who do not have direct, hands-on daily contact with our students; that’s obviously our most important thing.”

Soler said he expects more clarity at the April 28th meeting, mentioning a detailed list of recommendations that will be shared with the “greater public.”

“Then we can say that it is this many science teachers, it is this many math teachers, it is this many reading teachers and it is this many administrators because it’s every group that is going to be impacted.”

October 28, 2014 - 5:34pm
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, health, Batavia Teachers' Association.

A couple dozen vendors participated today in a community health fair at the Batavia Middle School sponsored by Batavia Teachers' Association.

Above, Jen Housknecht gives a zumba demonstration class. Below, a visit with the booth for Genesee Dental.

June 10, 2013 - 12:10am
posted by Howard B. Owens in batavia, schools, education, Batavia Teachers' Association.

Photo and information provided by Mark Warren, VP Batavia Teachers' Association:

Members of the Batavia Teachers' Association and their families attended the NYSUT One Voice United rally on Saturday June 8th in Albany.

Speakers representing parents, teachers, and various other groups highlighted the major issues that need to be addressed to help our students and our schools including over-reliance on expensive corporate developed tests, equitable funding of schools, and protecting the safety and privacy of students and staff.

Over 20,000 teachers, parents, and students attended the event.

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