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Letters to the Editor 1/27 Part 3

January 30, 2002

Letters to the Editor 1/27 Part 3



Teachers' salaries vs. administrative salaries: A few facts



To the editor:

A recent letter from Board of Education President Edward Forrest and Interim Superintendent Elizabeth Morgan to Commissioner President Greg Snook stated 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."

Following her earlier memo to teachers stating that they were not to speak to reporters without first consulting with the proper administrator at the Board of Education, such as statement from Interim Superintendent Morgan does not surprise me. Heaven forbid the public might find out that teachers sometimes disagree with administrators. In a land founded on free speech, a little "dissension" can be healthy.

Fear of reprisal keeps teachers from speaking out against actions, decisions, and policies made by the administrative staff of the Board of Education. Vice-principals, principals, supervisors, and superintendents have many ways of "punishing" such "intractable" teachers. As a recently retired teacher (31-plus years in Washington County), I am no longer subject to such reprisals and have chosen to dissent.

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In the aforementioned letter, Morgan and Forrest claimed they needed to clarify "some inaccurate, or less than complete, statements" made in Herald-Mail newspapers. Instead, they further confused the issue by misstating facts, by ignoring some details, and, as Commissioner Paul Swartz put it, by "compar(ing) apples to oranges."

First, the letter did just what it stated should not be done; it compared salaries. I have no problem in making such comparisons, but there has to be a way to make apples into oranges. It is unfair to compare salaries of the two groups based on a yearly or on a daily basis, yet the letter did both. Since administrators' salaries are based on 12 months and include paid holidays and vacations, yearly comparisons to teachers' salaries which are based on 190 work days with no paid holidays or vacations won't work.

(By the way, I view with incredulity Morgan's later claim that she did not know that teachers were not paid for holidays or vacations. I thought Morgan was a seasoned veteran of the Maryland educational system. Obviously, so did the elected Washington County Board of Education since they recently proclaimed her the best choice to be our new superintendent complete with a six-figure salary and a vehicle.)

Similarly, it is not appropriate to compare salaries of the two groups on a daily basis because the number of hours worked in a day varies for the two groups.

The majority of teachers in this county spend many hours beyond the seven-and-a-half-hour workday, on weekends, and during summer break reading and studying new material, preparing lessons, checking papers and completing forms and reports. When I was teaching, I arrived half an hour before the required time, usually stayed beyond 4 p.m. (sometimes until 5 or 5:30 for meetings), spent two to three hours Monday through Thursday working at home in the evening, and worked three to five hours on Sunday afternoons on school work.

I also spent several days at school during the summer cleaning my room and preparing materials. The extra hours I spent translate to approximately 90 extra days, making my work hear 280 days or 20 days longer than an administrator's work year - 53 days longer if one first deducts the administrator's paid holidays and vacation days.

Now, I know that administrators often spend time beyond the school day in meetings, chaperoning school activities, working on budgets, etc. depending on their job titles, but they do not put in the extra hours on such a routine basis. Thus, I beg to differ with the letter's claim that "a teacher with a master's degree at step 25 ... currently make(s) more per day than over half the administrative staff" because the letter did not factor in the number of hours in a teacher's workday (or workweek).

Next, in defending administrative salaries, the letter pointed out that 51 administrators "are at the top of the pay scale and will not receive step increases for next school year." However, the letter failed to mention how many teachers are at the top of their pay scale and will not get step increases next year!

Finally, I wish to disagree with a statement made by School Board Member Dori Nipps in connection with the disputed salary comparisons. According to The Daily Mail, she stated that "administrators have more responsibilities than teachers." Administrators do not have more responsibilities nor are the responsibilities of administrators more important or difficult than those of teachers; the two groups simply have different responsibilities. What is more important than preparing youth for life? What is more difficult than facing a roomful of 20-30 ambitious 5-year-olds or 25-35 indifferent teenagers?

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