The Bayonne Board of Education (BBOED) continued its round of layoffs and demotions at a meeting on February 28 in an effort to cut costs amid a reported $2 million budget deficit that increases by $6,000 every day, and is expected to balloon to $6 million by July, according to BBOED Board President Joseph Broderick.
After 16 district employees were laid off and six others demoted at January’s meeting, BBOED trustees voted to lay off two teachers and a guidance counselor, while two assistant principals and the Athletic Director were reassigned, saving the district about $42,000 this fiscal year. The layoffs are effective May 1, eight weeks before the end of the fiscal year on July 1.
Director of Athletics, John Calcaterra, was reassigned to teach physical education and health at John M. Bailey Community School, while the current physical education teacher was terminated.
Tara Furmaniak, assistant principal of Woodrow Wilson School, will be reassigned to the position of guidance counselor at the Nicholas Oresko School, displacing the current guidance counselor.
Henry E. Harris Community School Vice Principal Brian Belton was reassigned to teach art at Bayonne High School, displacing and terminating the current art teacher.
Trustees Carol Cruden, Mary Jane Desmond, and Christopher Munoz all voted against the layoffs, with Munoz citing the $42,000 saved in salary as futile in the face of the millions of dollars the district would need.
“Something is going to happen and we’re not going to like it. But I don’t think today is the day to do it. We have to do the right thing, not just some thing.” – Mary Jane Desmond
A human cost
Heather Zalis, assistant principal of Horace Mann School, spoke emotionally after the board last month voted to reassign her from assistant principal to 5th grade teacher in the district, which puts her career on hold.
“By removing me from this position, you are jeopardizing my chance to get this certification. I only have three months left,” said Zalis. “By dissolving this position, you are putting my chances of employment at risk, since I would have to take this process from square one.”
President of the teachers’ union, the Bayonne Teachers’ Association, Alan D’Angelo decried the school district’s move as both insufficient to affect the district’s financial standing and demoralizing both for current teachers and prospective teachers.
“This is ridiculous and it sends a bad message to anybody who wants to come to Bayonne,” said D’Angelo. “When this hits the papers, no one is going to want to teach here. Why would they want to come here? You can’t pay them. When they do come, every time there’s a problem it’s the teachers that take the hit.”
The school district takes a stand on PILOTs
The Board passed a symbolic resolution addressing the City Council’s recently passed PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) that required a developer to pay five percent of annual payments to the school district (normally PILOTs don’t make any payments to schools).
The project will deliver about $100,000 to the school district over the PILOT’s 25-year lifespan.
“That’s hardly enough,” said resident Peter Franco, inviting the Board of Education to stand up against PILOTs.
In response, School District Business Administrator Leo Smith said he spoke at the zoning board in the past, opposing “any and all PILOT programs,” and proposed a “SILOT” or “school in lieu of taxes.”
Smith offered to speak out against PILOTs in the future. “Give me a time and place and I will be there once again.”
Rory Pasquariello may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.