February 12, 2010

A Clash of Realities in Central Falls

Justin Katz

You'd think some higher-up planner in the teachers' union would begin advising members that it's time to back off for a while for the purpose of public-impression rehabilitation. Apart from the wholly inappropriate imagery of using a candle-light vigil for a union action, the particulars of the circumstances in Central Falls are absolutely certain to elicit a response of "are you kidding me" from any Rhode Islander not in the thrall (or payroll) of the union.

First there's the performance of the high school (news report and Dept. of Ed. PDF):

  • Only 4% of students proficient in math in 2008-2009, up from 3% the year before, with 75% "substantially below proficient."
  • Only 45% proficient in reading.
  • Only 29% proficient in writing.
  • Only 17% proficient in science.
  • A 48% graduation rate.
  • A 50% failure rate for the current school year.

Then there are the salaries:

The average teacher's salary at the high school ranges between $72,000 and $78,000 a year, because most are at the district's top step, Gallo said.

That's without incorporating benefits and all of the other perks of being a public school teacher. Then there are the demands for doing what any professional should be expected to do when collectively performing so abysmally:

Gallo said she offered to pay teachers $30 an hour for two additional weeks of training in the summer. Gallo also said she would try to find grant money to pay teachers for 90 minutes a week of after-school planning time, also at $30 an hour.

But she says she has no extra money to pay for other changes she is pushing for, including lengthening the instructional day by 25 minutes, so teachers work 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. instead of 7:50 a.m. to 2:25 p.m. She wants teachers to formalize a rotating tutoring schedule, so a teacher is available to help students for an hour before or after school, and she wants teachers to have lunch with students one day a week.

"Right now, they have no duties," Gallo said. "But I don't want them to see lunch as a duty. I want them to establish true relationships with not a few students, but all students." ...

Union officials have been pushing for $90 per hour and want the district to pay for more of the additional responsibilities.

Then there is the transparent mealy-mouthedness from the union, with this on the one hand:

James Parisi, a field representative of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Allied Health Professionals, said that Gallo had asked teachers to work a longer school day, attend after-school training and set aside two weeks in the summer for professional development. Parisi said the union balked because the district wasn't willing to pay teachers enough for the additional time and work.

And this on the other:

"We've been supportive of the transformational model, we think it's the right path," [Central Falls Teachers' Union President Jane] Sessums said. "But we need more details. We've never been opposed to the additional time that is needed. Our concern is that we really get an opportunity to understand what is necessary."

It's time for those teachers who've retained a modicum of professional integrity to step forward and tell the union to back off. They've a responsibility to improve the school in which they work without proclaiming that poor performance should justify even more reward.

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Hmm, using the numbers you cite, and being generous:

Work day length: 6.6 hours
Work days: 183
Annual Salary: $72,000
Hourly Rate: $59.61

And for what? Why should they get $90 an hour when their current rate is just under $60?

And when you're not performing well at your job, most professional businesses will help you with job development, put you on a path to improve, but it requires additional work on the employees' part. Additional pay? Heh, if you're on that path, you're lucky the employer is keeping you around. In this instance, the employer is offering extra pay, but that's not good enough.

And the union wonders why they get backlash when they act like this and hold candle vigils on the same night that another one was happening for the tragic deaths of five people?

Posted by: Patrick at February 12, 2010 7:59 AM

Talk about a bunch of ignorant union pigs. Until these teachers start standing up to their pig-leaders, they deserve not one ounce of respect.
That ad they have running on the radio is the most absurd, laughable piece of lying propaganda I have ever heard. The Central Falls Teachers Union is a pathetic bunch of scumbags. Fire them all!!

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at February 12, 2010 9:34 AM

Ah, just one more bit of evidence that average RI teacher salaries are nowhere near the 55K touted by groups such as the NEA and accepted by groups like RIPEC. As I have said here before, average RI teacher salaries are probably 40% higher than what is typically reported in the media. And yes, that makes their hourly rates preposterously high.

Posted by: Frank at February 12, 2010 10:17 AM

There are a couple different ways to state the "average" salary and neither one would be lying.

You can take the total paid in salary to all teachers, divide by the number of teachers and call that an average.

You can also add up the salaries for each of the steps in the contract, divide by 10 and that's also an average teacher salary.

Or for those that don't really know the difference, you can just take the step 5 salary and say that is the median, and many will incorrectly think you mean "average".

Keep in mind Mark Twain's great quote, "there are three kinds of lies, there's lies, damn lies and statistics."

Posted by: Patrick at February 12, 2010 10:55 AM

From experience I can safely say that at least 40% of all teachers in the state are at top step AND receive some additional money for extra hours of course work or an advanced degree.

An average of at least $70,000 sounds right. Total average cost (pay and benefits) over $100,000

Posted by: John at February 12, 2010 12:11 PM

So Patrick, assuming we get the 'average' that actually means something to the bottom-line, the 'actual amount distributed' divided by 'the number of teachers', how is it possible that the average is higher than the top step in CF?

I'm genuinely curious, is there more to pay than what step you're in, like COLA increases or something? If so, that's a really interesting way to do things...

I know at my job, my position is in a specified pay scale. The pay scale does get adjusted for inflation (when the economy allows), but I don't move up to a higher scale just for having my job for a few years.

It seems to me that there should really only be two steps 'new' and 'proven', the latter reserved for teachers who dedicate their careers to the profession. Performance bonuses given based on actual results would sweeten the pot.

Posted by: mangeek at February 12, 2010 12:23 PM

Borrowing from a chart Marc did last year, I created a matrix of Cranston teacher salaries from 2002 thru 2012. I created a couple of examples at the bottom of a private sector employee salary vs. a teacher's salary.


Posted by: Donald Botts at February 12, 2010 12:31 PM

Good question Mangeek. Opening up the contract shows that the top step for the 2007-2008 school year was $68,087. This is the latest contract that ridata.org has.

Some other ways that teachers in CF can increase their pay:

Member of the National Board for Professional Teaching Standard: $6,000 a year

Advanced degree: Ranges from $800 a year to $3900 a year

Complete an I Plan Certificate: $300 bonus

Department chairs are paid 10% more over step rate, plus $100 for each teacher supervised over 5.

Coaches receive either 5.6% or 6.5% extra to the BA scale, depending on which school they're at.

The athletic director is paid 14% over step.

Reform coach is paid 15% over step

Teacher coach is paid 10% over step

Extracurricular advisor/coach is paid $1,600 to $3,400 extra.

And finally, the one you broght up, the longevity bonus. Once you reach step 10, you get no more step increases. But you do get extra money each year.
11 years: $500
20 years: $1750
25 years: $2250
30 years: $2750
33 years: $3250

So again, this contract is two years old, and maybe there have been no increases, but this is how they end up getting paid more than the top step.

Posted by: Patrick at February 12, 2010 1:42 PM

Nice job Patrick! And not only are the salary scales much higher than CFs in many of the other districts, all those little add-ons are much higher than that in other districts.

Posted by: Frank at February 12, 2010 2:36 PM

Thanks Frank. But from the poking around that I've done, which has only been about 3-4 other teacher contracts is the $68,000 number is actually a little low. Again, this number is 2 years old, and I have no idea what the top step salary is for the 2009-2010 school year. But the other contracts I've looked at have the top step this year around $70,000.

Yeah, the $70,000 sounds like a pretty good amount of money for someone possibly 32 years old with just a bachelor's degree. But check out the other end of the scale in many towns, where you have a 22 year old, with zero experience and just a bachelor's degree making just a hair under $40,000, plus a schedule and benefits that no one would really sneeze at. That's the end that seems crazy to me.

Oh, and don't forget that not only do you get a salary bump for more classes or a higher degree, but in many districts, the town will even pay for your tuition to those classes. So they pay for the classes and they pay you for completing the classes.

As I've said many times, I don't blame the teachers one bit for what they get in their contracts. It's all negotiated. It's the school committees that don't have to face taxpayers with any kind of bill that any ire should be raised against.

Posted by: Patrick at February 12, 2010 3:07 PM

If you go to the Coventry Town website, to contracts, you will see a 2009-10 step 10 salary of $76,000 and extras such as National Board worth $7,800 yearly, Masters +45 worth $8,600 yearly, and Doctorate worth $9,000 yearly.

CF may be the low end of the RI teacher pay scale.

Posted by: Frank at February 12, 2010 9:15 PM

Yet another example where union "leadership" has screwed the rank and file. Ask any teachers you know how much of what's being proposed by Supt. Gallo are things they're ALREADY DOING in their daily teaching lives to one extent or another. Central Falls teachers' jobs are being put on the line in a horrible economy because of their leadership.
Vigil that!!!!

Posted by: Tim at February 13, 2010 8:45 AM

"It's time for those teachers who've retained a modicum of professional integrity to step forward and tell the union to back off."

About 15 years ago, I happened to be on foot in downtown Salem, MA. The teachers were out in force, carrying signs. They were walking in a large circle, I am not sure if it was a "strike", "job action", or a "protest". It was the least vociferous group I have ever seen, embarrassment was everywhere. At least 80% walked with heads bowed and eyes downcast, not willing to look at the public. As with Arab "protest signs", the signs were in English.

I wonder if this would prevail today, or would they see themselves as "demanding their rights". Somehow, one does not expect to see "professionals" manning a picket line.

Posted by: Warrington Faust at February 13, 2010 7:54 PM
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