The district aims to be a beacon of hope in a community beset by blight, gangs, and drugs.
"We're doing our best to do more with less," said another teacher.
However, with this year's staggering loss of more than $30 million in state funding, Superintendent Donna Jones has found herself facing some very tough choices, including a doomsday play.
"We were looking at well over 300 teachers losing their jobs, which would have meant serious impact on the service to children and a community that's already bleeding from, other challenges with the economy," Brentwood School District Superintendent Donna Jones explained.
Monday night, the teachers union reached a near unanimous agreement to save more than 200 of their colleagues jobs.
Starting next year, each teacher will see a $900 pay cut from this year, and all previously negotiated "step" raises will be frozen.
All told, an average teacher could lose up to $5,000.
"We've saved the district probably $11 million by doing this," said a teacher.
Union leaders say they didn't have much of a choice, and they're not alone.
Four other Long Island districts have reached similar agreements with teachers.
"Teachers are very concerned about the community and they're very concerned about their colleagues. And they really wanted to do anything they could in order to save as many jobs as possible," said Jerry Brophy, of the Brentwood Teachers Association.
In Brentwood, the district will still have to lay off as many as 60 teachers, and anyone who retires will not be replaced.
But for now, school leaders say they will be able to keep classes from getting too big, and protect music, art and sports.
Without those programs, the students would be the true victims of the district's money trouble.
"We have a lot of kids. We need a lot of teachers," said one parent.
"In this kind of economy, I do respect them because that is a big sacrifice," stated another parent.