Dear Parents and Residents,

On a number of occasions, anonymous forms of correspondence, advertisements and Letters to the Editor have appeared in recent weeks about John Benstock, a former employee in our school district. I have also been told that yesterday and today, emails have been sent to parents and community members which have raised questions.

 I have been asked to respond by parents and community members to the questions raised. The following provides the information which was requested:

1.    Does the Board of Education or the administration have control over legal positions which the Teachers’ union takes? No.

2.    Is it true that “the teachers” will be punished if the budget is defeated or “rewarded” if the budget is passed? Of course, the answer is “no” to both questions---given that their salaries are contractually guaranteed.

3.    Are teacher “raises” dependent on the passage of the budget? No, they are contractually guaranteed regardless of whether or not the budget is passed.

4.    Can the teachers not pay dues to their union? No, they are legally required to do so.

5.    Could the district prevent the teachers from paying dues? No, once that someone receives a salary, it is constitutionally guaranteed that they can join and affiliate themselves with almost any group including, the one(s) which wrote the letters which were sent to residents in Bayville and Locust Valley recently.

6.   Should we remove more money from the reserves or from the Unassigned Fund Balance? No, we are already drawing down a great deal, $2,250,000, for capital improvements and repairs which need to take place and which we cannot afford to pay from the budget, ---unless we wanted to cut programs significantly,--- which we do not. If we were to drawdown or withdraw more from reserves or fund balance, then we would never be able to replenish the $2,250,000 withdrawl in the future. This would be irresponsible given our large aging plant and the architect-documented repairs and safety issues which we know that we have to address in the near future and which we cannot pay for in any way other than to put money aside in the Unappropriated Fund Balance every year and transfer it to the Capital Reserve-----unless we plan to have another bond issue----which we have managed to avoid thus far and would like to continue to avoid for as long as possible. In addition, if we deplete our reserves significantly more than we are doing already and not replace them, we will risk a credit downgrade which will ultimately cause us to waste money needlessly in higher interest payments with nothing to show for it-------while still having to find the money to make the needed improvements anyway.

 6.    What did John Benstock plead guilty to doing? On February 25, 2013, John Benstock pleaded guilty to 4 counts of sexual abuse and 10 counts of endangering the welfare of children.

7.    Did the Teachers’ union defend John Benstock? The Locust Valley Teachers’ union did not defend Benstock during the investigation or during the trial. They also never condoned his actions.

8.   If Benstock pleaded guilty in February 2013, why did the Board of Education file a lawsuit three months later? In May of 2013, the Locust Valley Board of Education initiated a civil lawsuit against Benstock in order to recover wages and benefits which Benstock received during the time when he abused children in our district.

 9. What did the Teachers’ union do in response to the civil lawsuit which was initiated by the Board against Benstock? The union filed a motion in the civil lawsuit. They claimed that they did so to protect against the creation of a precedent whereby employees would be forced to forfeit salaries and benefits retroactively for minor crimes or offenses, much less serious than the ones which Benstock committed.

 10. What will be the outcome of the civil lawsuit? That is unknown. As in all cases under our judicial system, the outcome of the civil lawsuit will and should be determined by a judge in a court of law, and not on the basis of public opinion or the defeat of our school budget.

11. When did the Board of Education publicly declare that they were filing a civil lawsuit against Benstock? On March 6, 2013, LVCSD Board of Education President, Suzanne Sgueglia read a statement regarding the Board’s decision. On the same date, Board of Education members voted in public to file the lawsuit.

12. Is it true that the community was just informed about the involvement of the Teachers’ union in the civil lawsuit? No. The Board of Education described the union’s decision to intervene in the civil lawsuit on March 1, 2014, when the Board of Education posted a message to the community on the district website. Again, on April 2, 2014 and April 9, 2014, the President of the Board also read statements regarding the union’s involvement in public Board of Education meetings.

13. Have budget defeats had no effect on Manhasset? According to the New York State Comptroller, the financial stress levels in which Manhasset finds itself, are much more significant than previously was the case. Programs have been cut and faculty have left Manhasset because of the financial instability that the budget defeats have created. In fact, some faculty have come here to LV--- much to our benefit.

14. Are the students going to lose ALL their programs if the budget is defeated? No, and no one ever said so.

On May 20th, residents will be asked to vote on our school district budget. The budget reflects the lowest budget increase, 1.04%, and the lowest tax levy increase, 1.82%, in decades.

Our students and schools continue to excel and to rank among the very best in our nation. These accolades are thanks in no small measure to the extremely caring and highly capable teachers, administrators and staff who work with our students every day. The success of our district is also due to a community which has continuously supported the educational needs and applauded the successes of the children of the district---regardless of differences of opinion which exist among the adults.

With your help and for the sake of our children, we look forward to continuing that tradition for many years to come.

Sincerely yours,

Dr. Anna F. Hunderfund

Superintendent of Schools 

Locust Valley Central School District