My Turn: How do other school districts do it? | SierraSun.com
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My Turn: How do other school districts do it?

The following comments were recently submitted to the TTUSD School Board: This year, more than years past, feelings of anger and frustration have surfaced because I think many teachers feel undervalued. The hope five years ago was that with basic aid status teacher salaries here would rise to the mean level of other basic aid districts within a few years. Now five years later, it seems that the board does not think our salary schedule should necessarily reflect what other similar districts offer. When I say similar districts, I mean districts that have about the same amount of revenue per student.I have worked here at Truckee High School for 16 years and love my job, and the school, students, staff, parents and the community. It is a great place to work, and I think of myself as a positive person, one that does not spend time dwelling on negatives, so I hate to see the atmosphere here clouding over. When I go to the University of California and/or California State University counselor conferences every fall I usually end up talking to other counselors from all over Northern California at lunch. Often times conversations turn to salaries at our respective districts; and almost without exception I have found that I would be making more somewhere else usually $5,000 top $10,000 more. Just to give you some examples: During the 16 years I have worked here, the stipend for a masters degree has been raised only once by $400 to $1,000 a year, which is about $5 a day. Dont you think that is sad if you are trying to recruit highly qualified staff? I wonder why it has only been raised once since I started working at THS? It is way below most other districts. What incentive is there for teachers to pursue a higher degree? I have to pay almost $6,000 a year towards my health benefits. Dont you think having to pay that much is way higher than other districts? Also, you can reach the top of the pay scale 5-10 years sooner in most other districts.I know there are financial burdens the district faces but I have to wonder if we are burdening ourselves with excess staff and too many small schools. As enrollment has declined, have we cut back on staffing in proportion to the decline in student numbers? Do we need four full-time administrators for 600 students at North Tahoe Middle School/North Tahoe High? I think we need to stop saying why we cant increase salaries to the level of other comparable districts (same revenue per student). I think we need to start asking why they can. We should question how these other districts manage to do it. Why are they able to offer the salaries they do? What are they doing that we are not? Patty McCaffrey, THS economics teacher, is fond of saying that we have to make economic decisions on how to best allocate scarce resources, which means making choices. Some board members, I feel, think the choice is either salary increases or programs that our students need. I think the choice should be to offer competitive compensation first and then find a way to make it happen. I think most of us in this district think there are ways TTUSD can be run more efficiently if we look closely at staffing ratios, small schools etc.. Or perhaps we should look closely at other basic aid districts and ask them what their secret is.Before starting to work here I helped manage a restaurant in the Bay Area. To be successful, the most important asset a business must promote and protect is its staff. Happy, well-qualified, competent employees are key to running any successful business especially a service business. TTUSD is not private, but it certainly is a service business in the truest sense of the word. We all are here to serve the students, parents and community and I think all of us work best when we feel truly valued. Staff morale is sinking and pessimism is rising. Lets find a way with a two-year contract to get salaries up to the mean level of the other comparable districts. Lets say there is a way and come up with a plan to make it happen. Lets stop this bickering and get back to doing what we do best and love most serving our clients, the students. They deserve the best and I think at TTUSD they have the best. Lets recognize the staff (certificated and classified) with salaries and benefits that truly reflect this.Paul Christiansen is a Truckee High School counselor.


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