Proposed cuts worry Mott Haven school officials

Mayor Michael Bloomberg has proposed laying off city school teachers in dramatic numbers to compensate for budget shortfalls.

In Mott Haven, the Courtlandt School, an elementary school on E. 140th St., would take a beating, potentially losing as many as a third of its 53 teachers.  Samuel Gompers Career and Technical High School on Southern Boulevard would lose seven of its 65 teachers.

Ten of the 34 teachers at the Laboratory School of Finance and Technology, MS 223, on East 145th Street would be in jeopardy of losing their jobs, but principal Ramon Gonzalez is hopeful the layoffs won’t be as extensive as the mayor as outlined.

“I don’t think it’ll get to that point,” Gonzalez said, adding, “It’s all about negotiation.”

The Department of Education released the layoff list in an effort to influence state legislators and the governor, in response to Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s proposal to cut $1.4 billion in aid to the city’s schools for the next fiscal year

Still, Gonzalez says his teachers are right to be worried about the threats from City Hall, and should prepare themselves for the worst by completing all their certification training to advance themselves professionally, lest the mayor’s hammer fall.

Gonzalez believes the teacher’s union will be forced to compromise with the city on its contract.

“We’ve been in situations like this before. It’s rally the troops time” he said. “As principals, it’s time to be listeners. I can’t guarantee them anything, which is frustrating.”

Schools in low-income neighborhoods like Mott Haven and Melrose are more vulnerable than others to teacher cuts, because of the high turnover rate among teachers, and because fewer teachers have the seniority necessary to buttress them against layoffs, he added.

All-told, the Department of Education plans to lay off 15% of the elementary school teachers in Community School District 7, which comprises Mott Haven, the Concourse and Melrose. That represents the highest percentage of cuts to elementary school teachers of any of the city’s 32 school districts.

Assemblyman Marcos Crespo, who represents a swath of the South and Central Bronx, thinks measures can be taken to weed out ineffective teachers without the city abandoning the long-standing practice of preserving the jobs of the most experienced teachers. The mayor wants to be able to change contractual rules that protect teachers with seniority.

“None of us want to defend bad teachers,” he said, “but until we have a measure that takes into account not only test scores but other factors, it wouldn’t be fair to say we’re going to do away with teachers.

“The mayor has always said, ‘judge me on my education record,’” Crespo continued. “And if that’s the case, he’s failed.” He charged that the mayor is “targeting the neediest communities as part of this feud,” with the governor and the teachers union.

“The goal should always be our children and their education,” Crespo said.