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Letter: Kat-Lewisboro School Board Must Take Tougher Stance

LEWISBORO, N.Y. – The Lewisboro Daily Voice accepts original, signed letters to the editor. Letters may be emailed to bdumas@dailyvoice.com .

To the Editor:

I would like to thank the school district Finance Committee for a very professional presentation. It validated what many residents of the Katonah-Lewisboro School District have known: that employee compensation has been overly generous for many years. In a nutshell, we pay more per-pupil in salaries and other expenses than any of the neighboring school districts studied by the committee: Bedford, Byram Hills, Chappaqua, Harrison and Scarsdale. Each of these districts, though more affluent than K-L, manages to do as well, or better, with less.

While listening to the presentation, I became extremely disappointed with several school board members, not just for leading us into this disaster, but for their unwillingness to take any responsibility. Instead of leadership and a commitment to deal with the teachers union in a tougher, more realistic way, all I heard was a lot of "passing of the buck."

It was especially disheartening to hear Mr. [Michael] Gordon hide behind the Triborough Amendment in an attempt to absolve the board of any blame for the current sad state of affairs. While this law does unfairly help the union by protecting the cost of living and STEP increases contained in an expired contract, the exorbitant increases negotiated by our district in the first place were not "immaculately conceived." The same goes for the many generous buyouts, early tenure requests and exorbitant administrator salaries doled out to district employees who themselves elected to live in Connecticut to avoid our high taxes.

The contract negotiated with the help of Mr. Gordon in 2009 is a case in point. Last year's contract, which caved in again, was justified as an attempt to build trust and goodwill with the union. Where is that goodwill now?

For over a decade many residents, often a majority in the less affluent Lewisboro portion of the district, have been calling unsuccessfully for tougher negotiations and more disciplined hiring practices. And it took a national financial crisis before northern Westchester voters finally put enough pressure on Albany for the governor's generally positive 2 percent property tax cap to pass. Unfortunately, as local real estate values continue to decline (at a faster rate here than in the other districts studied) without significant concessions from the union or a massive round of firings, Lewisboro is on target for becoming a domestic mini-Greece.

I am heartened by the arrival of Dr. Paul Kreutzer, who has broken the mold in many ways, and the fact that Mr. Gordon is leaving the board with two new members joining. But if the remaining members follow Mr. Gordon’s lead and continue to blame outside forces rather than take a truly tough stance with the union leadership, the hard work of the committee will have been wasted and we will continue on our current downward spiral.

Glenn J. DeFaber

Cross River

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