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Letter: The Perspective of the Island Trees Teachers

With such controversy and propaganda circulating throughout the Island Trees Community, the United Teachers of Island Trees would like to take this opportunity to express some opinions and concerns with the hope of adding some clarity and comfort to the many families that we impact. We realize that it is quite uncommon for us to feel a need to communicate in this manner but we also feel that remaining silent would only perpetuate some of the negativity that currently exists.

It is certainly not a secret that the present economic situation is dire to say the least. As everything is affected by this, school budgets are no exception. With the imminent reduction of state aid for the 2010/2011 school year, teachers’ jobs are to be reduced. One way to save all of our colleagues, as it has been presented to us as well as to the community, would be for the teachers to accept a “zero” increase next year. And so has the struggle begun to find a means to salvage the jobs of outstanding, creative, loyal, professionals who will in turn maintain a superior education for our students without the loss of valuable resources.

A great concern of the UTIT is that the public be aware of how steadfast and vigilant its executive board has been with regard to minimizing the reduction of staff. The education of our students is and always has been our top priority. Losing excellent teachers will not be beneficial in our attempt to maintain our very high standards of education. The UTIT has offered many suggestions to the board of education as to how our fiscal crisis might be lessened. Those discussions were in confidence and will not be mentioned publicly. It should be stated, however, that our fiscally sound proposals were apparently not heeded and have yet to be realized.

What is unfortunate and disheartening is that so many fingers seem to be pointed in the direction of the members of the UTIT as the only entity that can solve the dilemma. These Island Trees teachers live on Long Island and also feel the impact of the economic recession. Many teachers are the sole providers for their households, as their spouses remain unemployed.

We feel it would suffice to say that everyone would be relieved to see a restoration of state aid. If that did happen and our teachers were “saved,” all involved would benefit. Since not much can be done to ensure that that will come to fruition, the UTIT will continue to do what it always does. We have proudly been a recipient of the Community Service Award for seven continuous years, which is given to teachers’ unions that offer assistance to community groups and families in need. We will forever remain supportive of our children by offering scholarships to families that could benefit from financial assistance. You will continue to see our faces at athletic events, concerts and plays as our enthusiasm for our students will never be compromised.

It is not the intention of this letter to discredit or diminish the efforts of the board of education. In fact, numerous members of the board were endorsed and supported by the UTIT as they ran for election. We do not regret our decision and feel confident that our existing board of education is doing its best to maintain a standard of excellence with regard to the quality of education that the Island Trees Community has grown to expect.

We will see what lies ahead in the days and weeks to come. Although many variables are uncertain, one thing is for sure. The teachers who proudly call themselves members of the UTIT will attend school each day prepared to educate the children they love. In these tough economic times, that is one thing that you can take to the bank.

Charles Smith, UTIT President

Tom Steinmeyer, UTIT Vice-President

Graham Radcliffe, UTIT Vice-President