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Letter defends school salaries

January 17, 2002

Letter defends school salaries



By SCOTT BUTKI

scottb@herald-mail.com

The Washington County Board of Education president and the interim schools superintendent said in a letter sent to the County Commissioners that some teachers make more per day than administrators, if one takes into consideration that teachers work fewer days in a year than administrators.

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Washington County Teachers Association President Claude H. Sasse on Wednesday called the comparison "misleading" and said the letter includes inaccurate numbers.

The Jan. 9 letter from Interim Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan and School Board President W. Edward Forrest was sent to the Washington County Board of Commissioners and Commission President Gregory I. Snook. Copies of the letter were sent to others, including Sasse.

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The letter followed a Dec. 11 meeting between the commissioners and the School Board at which the commissioners questioned whether school system administrators have received excessive salary increases compared to those for teachers.

"Recent articles in the Herald-Mail newspapers have included some inaccurate, or less than complete, statements that need to be clarified," the letter from Forrest and Morgan to Snook said. "Our meeting just before the holiday, as well, left us thinking that we needed to 'clear' the air again and reiterate some facts."

The letter notes that teachers work 190 days in 10 months while most administrators are compensated for 260 days over 12 months.

"For example, a teacher with a master's degree at step 25 makes about $55,245. Therefore, teachers at that rate currently make more per day than over half the administrative staff," the letter says. "Said another way, if that teacher at step 25, master's scale, worked a 260-day schedule, the compensation would be $75,589.42, or more than what many of our current principals and assistant principals earn."

A better comparison, Sasse suggested, would be of a teacher with a master's degree and an administrator with the same degree. Based on a daily rate for actual days worked, the administrator's salary would be more than 46 percent higher than that of a teacher, he said.

Sasse said teachers do work 190 days, but noted they receive no paid vacation or paid holidays.

Administrators, he said, actually work 227 days - not 260 days as mentioned in the letter - when paid vacation and holidays are factored in.

"Comparing their rate of pay using a work year of 260 days, therefore, is misleading," he said in a Jan. 11 letter to the commissioners.

Morgan said Wednesday that Sasse had caught a mistake in her comparison. She said she did not realize teachers did not get paid vacations or holidays.

The letter from Forrest and Morgan cautions that "we should not compare teachers' salaries to administrators' salaries as this will only lead to dissension in our ranks, which is not healthy for the school system and will ultimately impact our students negatively.

"The jobs are different and all school employees need to be compensated properly for their educational attainment, licensure and the difficult jobs they carry out each day," the letter went on. "Both administrators and teachers in WCPS work hard and earn their pay, but the level and type of responsibility is obviously different."

Sasse said he agreed that such comparisons lead to dissension but said he felt he needed to challenge the comparison in order to best represent the association.

The letter says that the School Board and Morgan were considering "creative options" for enhancing teachers' pay.

"By creating a 'career ladder' for staff, providing differentiated pay for differentiated work and using performance pay incentives to motivate excellent teachers, some teachers will be able to work a 12 month schedule and may be able to earn almost as much as the average principal in the future," the letter says.

Morgan said Wednesday she would suggest that the School Board consider hiring some teachers to work 11 months, provided teachers agree to work the extra time. The teachers' rate of pay per day would remain the same, but they would be paid for the additional days, she said.

When she was chief academic officer for Baltimore City Public Schools, the district experimented with hiring new teachers to work an 11-month year, she said. That enabled the new teachers to receive training for one month before the school year began, she said. That test was a success, she said.

Washington County schools also could have mentor teachers who would work 11 months a year, working on development during the summer, she said.

Should that be instituted, those teachers' salaries would be in the range of principals' salaries, she said.

She said that idea was on her mind when she wrote the comparison.

Commissioner Paul L. Swartz said the comparison outlined in the letter might make sense if teachers worked year-round.

"The thing of it is, they don't," he said. "She is trying to compare apples and oranges in the sense of the world."

Snook said he had no comment because he had not yet researched the topic.

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