Three months after hundreds of teachers staged a school board meeting walkout, enraging many parents, the educators continue to languish without a contract.
In the eyes of many, the stunt just didn't work.
Superintendent Edward Ehmann said in a phone interview Thursday that while the walkout created a stir among the community back in March, it has had no impact on ongoing contract negotiations.
“The political actions that any group takes is to create a message, but I don’t think that the negotiations themselves are impacted by what groups of people do to deliver messages,” he said.
The Smithtown Teachers Association staged the March 22 walkout after board members accused them of refusing to negotiate. Teachers in the district have been working on an expired contract since last spring.
When the community by 4,847 votes to 2,342 in May, they did so at the expense of 30 positions within the district, which included laying off 18 teachers. The new budget hikes their school taxes by 5 percent, but the contingency budget would have boosted it even higher.
“I voted yes only because voting no would be a higher number, the taxes would go up more,” said resident Sue Peverelle after the vote. “Not that I want to send that message that approving the budget is OK, but it would have been worse for the taxpayers if it would be voted no.”
It’s that sentiment that turned residents against teachers after the walkout, when locals were being asked to approve a hike, even though they live in a region with some of the highest property taxes in the nation. For example, a recent $600,000 home for sale in St. James lists annual property taxes of $15,000.
“I’d like for every one of them to go to their classrooms tomorrow, look their students in the eyes and tell them their checking accounts are more important than their students' education,” Mark Slavinski of Nesconset after the walkout.
saw more people turning against teachers in the comment stream, with many laying into teachers for complaining when they already get guaranteed step raises, pensions and pay nothing toward their health benefits.
“The problem is that not all the teachers are great, a few are not even good and that is the source of frustration for many,” wrote commenter Christine Santori.
Though many commenters used aliases.
“We are all in the same boat. Why should teachers continue to get pay increases at a time when we are all making sacrifices,” said commenter Nesconset Mom.
STA President Richard Forzano, who led the walkout, did not return several requests for comment on Thursday, but the day after the walkout he stood by the stunt. So did a few locals.
“Have we forgotten that at one point we were educated by teachers? That we have the jobs and the careers that we have now partly due to the fact that someone taught us?” wrote commenter Victoria J.
Newly elected trustee Joanne McEnroy, who will take over the seat of current board member Neil Carlin on July 1 said he's heard nothing from community members about the incident recently.
Kathy Rocca, president of the Smithtown West High School PTSA, agrees with McEnroy and Ehmann that the locals have moved beyond the walkout, especially .
“I think they wanted to make a point, and they made their point,” she said.
“Timing was a little bad, but I really don’t see any repercussions from it.”