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BC admins to take wage freeze

Teachers union says 'significant' proposal in the works

Bethlehem Central School District administrators will be taking a pay freeze next school year.

Altogether, 26 employees, including school principals, department directors and upper administrative staff, will take no pay increase in the 2011-12 school year budget. That should yield a $65,000 savings, which is still a long way from closing an estimated $5 million budget gap.

Superintendent Micahel Tebbano, who is one of the employees taking the freeze, said the Bethelhem Principals Association and the Bethlehem Central Management Group approached the district.

Their intent was to offer some savings because of the budget crisis, Tebbano said. "As far as I'm concerned it was a clean gift to the school district."

"As leaders of the district, we believe this is the right thing to do," said Slingerlands Principal and President of the BPA Heidi Bonacquist. "As administrators we see the impact these tough economic times are having on the buildings we lead and on opportunities for students. This was an important step for us to take."

The move drew positive words from those in state government, including Gov. Andrew Cuomo, whose budget proposal cuts aid to BC by $2.7 million.

"This is a responsible and sensible first step that recognizes the state's current fiscal condition and I encourage school districts across New York to find ways to reduce costs and put children first," Cuomo said.

The area's newly-minted Assemblyman Steve McLaughlin also said he hopes other educators will follow the example set here.

"I applaud the efforts of these educators, and their decision shows how much the Bethlehem school district truly cares about the student body, the number of services they receive, and the quality of education they deserve," McLaughlin said.

Tebbano acknowledged the freeze would not forestall the cuts administrators have been bandying about. Staffing cuts are a part of those plans, including more than 20 teaching positions. If sizable savings are to be seen, they'd have to come from the much larger groups, like the Bethlehem Central Teachers Association. President Dave Rounds said "something significant" is being discussed within that union.

"Within a few weeks we will likely be putting a proposal forward to our members that would result in savings to the district," he said. "There's a lots of different pieces right now...what our proposal looks like in the end has yet to be decided."

Any change to the terms of the district's contact with the BCTA would have to be approved by its membership.

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