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Emails for March 2004

Unfair comparisons on teachers salaries


I would like to ask a few questions about your editorial on teacher contract negotiations and comment on the salary comparison list you chose. First, why did you choose those 14 schools? And why are the overall averages you used in your salary comparisons only based on those 14 schools? I looked on our school reportcard (published at www.fieldcrest.k12.il.us, enter Knight Country, then click on district report card) and the state average for salaries is $51,672 where our actual average is $42,923. I feel it is statistically impossible to make a valid comparison using your sample space of only 14 school districts. Also, the average administrator salaries you list are not a good comparison group. Some districts have only 3 administrators; Fieldcrest has 5. How can you compare a group of 50 plus members to a group that is only 3 to 5? One highly paid administrator skews the small group average because it is divided by such a small number. Also, how long have these administrators been at these districts? Our average may seem low because two of our five administrators are in their first year and are therefore low on the pay scale. The longest any of the five have been in our district is 7 years. Did you take this into consideration?

Fieldcrest has 37 faculty members who have more than 20 years of total teaching experience. This is WONDERFUL for our students, but it is playing havoc on the school average salary you have calculated. I think this may be a good time to give my background and why I felt the need to write this letter. I am a first year teacher here at Fieldcrest and I took a pay cut to come here from Ottawa Township High School, basically for the same reasons you stated when you said you "chose to make less money from my career so that I could live in this area." Also, I am a taxpaying member of this community and you DO NOT speak for me. I am paying part of my own salary every year when I pay taxes, so when you put in an Editor's Reply, "the taxpayers opinion was more relevant," PLEASE do not assume that you speak for the majority of this community. You do not.

The next item I feel compelled to talk about is the fact you state in the editorial that Clinton took a pay freeze. However, you did not include them on your salary comparison list. I'm guessing that it's because Clinton teachers start at $27,230 and Fieldcrest starts its teachers at $26,604. Of the 25 schools in our area that we use for salary comparison, Fieldcrest is 24th on that list (2nd from the bottom). Also, Clinton's average teacher salary is $50,400 compared to Fieldcrest at $43,087 (your figure). When you are being compensated well for your job, it is OK to take a pay freeze.

When you talk about teachers picking up their fair share of the insurance cost, why do you talk about workers compensation insurance? This is not a cost that is in any way passed on to employees anywhere. This is a burden that the employer bears. We have paid an increase for our coverage, in some cases, enough to negate the raise that comes with the move for years of experience.

None of us got into teaching for the money. We do it because we love our jobs. I can not tell you how much pride I have in only in my own students but the students all over this district. I feel our high school staff is exceptional. Furthermore, we are VERY fortunate to have fabulous elementary and middle school teachers. How do I know they're good? Because when their students get to me in high school, they are well read, well educated, and ready to learn. My intention is to stay with this district for as long as I can, not because I think things will turn around and the teachers who have already had to take cuts in salary will be able to get that income back, but because this is my community. I am part of Fieldcrest and my family is here.

Our district has cut 14 teaching positions in the last 2 years, and 4 more have been cut for next year. Our contract covers not only teachers but ESPs (custodians, cafeteria workers, aids, bus drivers, etc.) and all groups covered in our contract have seen cuts. ESP cuts included reduction cafeteria workers' hours and elimination of bus drivers' positions. For next year, 3 custodians and 12 aids have lost their jobs. Last year we reduced our administration staff by eliminating the assistant principal position at the high school. High school and middle school teachers are teaching larger classes. Elementary teachers are being asked to increase class size at a time when, educationally, it doesn't make sense. Elementary teachers are already being asked to teach art and now PE, computers, and possibly library due to cuts.

We know times are tough. We know we need to do our fair share. We have been. Now what we need is community support to HELP us get through this time! Please contact your legislators to help us change the way Illinois funds public education. Our state constitution says: "the State has the primary responsibility for financing the system of public education." They are not. State average for funding is at a measly 37%.

Our children are the future. Could there be anything more important?

Jessica Overocker
Fieldcrest taxpayer and teacher

Editor's reply: I could have compared the price of eggs in China to coffee in Brazil. It doesn't make any difference. Fieldcrest is in financial difficulties and it is necessary for Fieldcrest to hold the line on salaries regardless of what they are. My editorial never mentioned salary amounts because they are not relevant in this issue. Also, I never claimed to speak for the majority. My editorials are my opinion. It is still my opinion that the opinion of a taxpayer who is not a teacher is more relevant. I never had a boss ask me if I thought I should get a raise. They told me whether I would get one.

Bothered by editorial on teachers salaries


There are a few things about your last editorial and e-mail regarding Fieldcrest that bother me. First of all, the teachers union is not starting negotiations because we all of a sudden decided we want more money. We are starting negotiations because our contract expires and we have to. I don't think any of us enjoy negotiations or the acrimonious relationships that the process sometimes causes. Your editorial made the teachers of Fieldcrest sound like a very greedy group of people. By not speaking to any teachers regarding our negotiations, you would not realize the options being discussed or the issues being considered. Our team has put incredible effort into investigating how each issue would affect the members of our union and our district. There are many language issues negotiated in a contract, salary schedule is only one part of negotiations. The teachers realize the economic dynamics that face our district. I don't think you could find a teacher who would say they went into teaching for the money rather than the opportunity to influence a child's life.

Secondly, do you realize that 2/3 of Fieldcrest South's full-time staff are also tax payers in this district? If we looked at the entire district's full-time staff it would probably be a similar number. Many of us also have children that are students in this district. We obviously care very deeply what happens with Fieldcrest on more than one level.

Lastly, I think the salary information you provided was misleading. There are many things to consider when looking at a district's average salary or a salary schedule. A large number of teachers in our district have a Master's degree plus continuing hours. More than fifty percent of our teachers have been in the district for ten years or longer. Twenty-four teachers out of ninety-one have taught in this district for twenty or more years. These details mean two things. One, we have highly qualified and dedicated people teaching our children. And two, salaries for these teachers are going to be higher than for beginning teachers. There are also other factors inflating our average salary such as teachers being paid for teaching more hours than allowed in the contract. When looking at our administrators' average salary compared to surrounding districts, you must consider the fact that we have two first-year administrators. That would lower the average administrator's salary.

Your website has become an important source of information for community members, especially regarding the Fieldcrest school district. Many school staff members check it regularly for information regarding our jobs and public opinion. I think it would be beneficial to elicit information from all parties involved in a situation before publicly presenting an opinion.

Lynn Tjaden
Fieldcrest taxpayer and teacher

Editor's reply: You have made some very good points which I did overlook. I do not feel that Fieldcrest teachers are greedy. My main point of the editorial was that it is necessary to hold the line on salaries because of the school's financial condition. Also, I was asked by several readers to list the salaries in the link I put in my letter. The people who gave the link to me wanted to remain confidential. So I was the messenger. I did not realize that the link on salaries was not a state sponsored link and Superintendent Stagliano told me afterwards that the person who ran that website had an axe to grind. In summary, my intentions were noble but my execution was flawed due mainly to the fact that I am not a professional reporter. I realize that the teachers are a dedicated group who do a valuable service to our community, something which I could not do. You also must realize that a lot of people just like me are frustrated from increasing property taxes and no relief forthcoming from the state. If anything positive comes out of this editorial, it is that it elicited worthwhile comments that help us understand each other better.

Further explanation of teachers salaries

I applaud your efforts to keep our community informed about teacher salaries. If I may, I'd like to add a few points to clarify what those printed salaries represent. In order to be fair, one should note that those salary figures include all compensation, not just base salary. In other words, if the teacher supervises an extra-curricular activity, that is included in the numbers that you reported. Those figures are also an average. This means that as older, more experienced teachers retire, they are replaced with less experienced and cheaper teachers. The lure of teaching in a smaller district is attractive to some, but the vast majority of the best teachers will go where the money is. Further, salaries also reflect, to an extent, the financial base of the districts which they represent. Several on the list have severe financial difficulties. Both Chenoa and Gridley are merging with neighboring districts. Roanoke-Benson just passed a referendum. Midland recently closed an elementary school. The problems continue. I would also like to dispel some misconceptions about teacher pay. Teachers do not get paid for all those holidays that kids are not in school. Teachers also do not get paid for summer vacation. This is a very big misconception that people have. When teachers receive salary over the summer, it is money that they have already earned. It is essentially back-pay. School districts in the State of Illinois are allowed to do this with teachers' pay.

Although technically unemployed over the summer, teachers are forbidden from collecting unemployment. Many teachers spend their good quality summer taking classes, learning how to be better educators. This is also one way that they move higher on the salary schedule. I think to be fair, we should pay our teachers like we pay our daycare providers. Let's go cheap. How about $100 per week per child. If a teacher teaches only one class of 25 students, five days a week, that's $2500 each week. Maybe we could all get a nice child care tax credit on our tax returns! I think it is very important that the public knows how much their educators are earning. We can all remember a bad teacher we may have had. I can personally say that the vast majority of those that taught me were absolutely excellent. Thank you Mrs. Coons, Mr. Stolt, Mrs. E. Cunningham, Mrs. M. Cunningham, Mrs. Bennington, Mrs. Greskoviak, Mr. DiMascio. . . . . (the list goes on) I really can remember only one teacher that taught me nothing. He lasted one year and left our school.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Jeff Geringer
p.s. Mrs. Bennington - please don't be too harsh on me for my grammar usage. ;-)

Salary comparisons among schools

Dear Readers;
I have received internet links from several people that list salaries for teachers and administrators for each school. I am listing below the salaries for area schools to show how they compare with Fieldcrest. For those who want more information, click here.

Average Teacher Salary

Chenoa - $37,423
Leroy - $38,215
Roanoke-Benson - $39,681
Woodland - $39,867
Gridley - $39,881
Midland - $39,959
El Paso - $41,558
Flanagan - $42,207
Heyworth - $42,569
Fieldcrest - $43,087
Eureka - $44,280
Ridgeview - $44,702
Lexington - $45,512
Metamora - $46,650

Average = $41,827.93

Average Administrator Salary

Woodland - $62,766
Heyworth - $68,470
Eureka - $69,754
Gridley - $70,332
Lexington - $71,005
Midland - $71,134
Fieldcrest - $76,957
El Paso - $77,950
Ridgeview - $80,511
Metamora - $79,600
Leroy - $81,229
Roanoke-Benson - $84,352
Chenoa - $94,624
Flanagan - $96,710

Average = $77,530.29