My Goal in Blogging

I started this blog in May of 2008, shortly after my election to the School Committee, because I believed it was very important to both provide the community with an opportunity to share their thoughts with me about our schools and to provide me with an opportunity for me to ask questions and share my thoughts and reasoning. I have found the conversation generated on my blog to be extremely helpful to me in learning community views on many issues. I appreciate the many people who have taken the time to share their views. I believe it is critical to the quality of our public schools to have a public discussion of our community priorities, concerns and aspirations.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Amherst OK's school raises

Hampshire Gazette

Friday, July 10, 2009

AMHERST - A divided Amherst School Committee approved 2 percent cost-of-living raises for a group of 24 non-union district employees that includes all administrators.

Member Irv Rhodes said he strongly objected to the June 24 decision, calling it "outrageous" at a time when teacher positions are being eliminated and there are cuts to supplies and after-school activities.

"On top of that, there was a warning to the (teachers) union to come to the table to possibly give up their (raises), so it was hypocritical," he said. "Here we are in this incredible fiscal crisis and people are in pain, and we're giving out raises. It's contradictory."

The School Committee had recently asked the teachers union to consider moderating its 3.5 percent cost-of-living raises under an existing contract, to limit the number of positions to be lost because of budget cuts, but the union declined.

Similar measures were attempted in municipal government here, but those too failed.

Rhodes and member Kathleen Anderson were in the minority in the School Committee's 3-2 vote, he said. The Regional School Committee voted 4-3-2, with member Marianne Jorgensen also voting no and members Catherine Sanderson and Steve Rivkin abstaining, Rhodes said.

Sanderson said she voted in favor of cost-of-living raises for the elementary principals in part because the teachers union did not give them up. She said the principals have had a difficult year, with much turnover in the superintendent position, the need to manage budget pressures, and the resulting challenges involving morale and workloads.

"Given the staff cuts that have been made at the administrative level, I felt that we were also asking the remaining administrators to shoulder an additional load over the next year," she said.
Sanderson said she abstained from the regional vote because she didn't understand all the raises, which included some "step" increases and varied considerably by position.

The total aggregate salary of the 24 employees was $1.8 million last year, said Kathy Mazur, the schools' human resources director.

Included in the non-union group are seven principals, one assistant superintendent, four directors (of human resources, business/finance, maintenance/transportation, and information systems), and 12 support positions.

Also in this group is the new superintendent, Alberto Rodriguez, who will make $158,000 this year. He will not receive the cost-of-living raise because it is his first year of employment.

The Personnel Board has also approved 2 percent cost-of-living raises for department heads and 3.5 percent for other non-union employees on the municipal side.

Town Manager Larry Shaffer said these raises are a "fair and rational" response to what teachers and school administrators are receiving.

Nick Grabbe can be reached at


Ed said...

The question I have is what happens if they then go form a "supervisors" union (which I believe they can do) and then demand to negotiate a contract with pay increases similar to those of the teachers unit?

Of course, I still ask why there are four elementary principals? Most districts would have just two - one for the north end of town, one for the south, with each having two schools. It isn't like there aren't assistant principals in both schools....

Anonymous said...

But then who would check teacher attendance, personal days, sick days? And of course, who would direct traffic? That is what our principals do! At least two that I know of. Guess they never have heard of delegating.

And, Ed, most towns would have a fire station at both ends instead of libraries.

Abbie said...

Did the cost of living actually go up 2% last year? I'd be very surprised if it did. I very much doubt that it will increase next year. I guess I understand that the teachers got their 3.5% (which is part of a 3 year contract) that was negotiated a year or so ago before the economy feel off a cliff but I don't understand how a 2% COLA could go through now...Unless I am wrong and the COLA really did go up 2%. I guess I would still be reluctant to support it. Times have changed since the teachers got their COLA contract. Who else around these days is getting a 2% increase???

I'm expect a lot in return from these folks. I hope they are ready to work hard for their increase as that seems to have been the rationale for giving it!

Anonymous said...

You are right the inflation rate for the past year wasn't 3.5. That being said when school staff got a 1% increase last year the inflation rate was 3.85. There has been a consistent trend in raises NOT meeting the inflation rate. In '07 it was 2.87 staff got 1.5 In '06 3.24, in '05 3.39. Please understand the school staff is not being greedy in not "giving back" they are working with fewer resources and many cuts in professional development and in the case of paraprofessionals hours. Another point: it is not in fact a COLA if it were they would be getting a fairer increase each year. School staff has taken the hit year after year. There is no mechanism for bonuses or pay raises based on productivity only the negotiated agreement in the contract. To compare working in the schools to working in the private sector is comparing apples and oranges. If the people living in Amherst do not see the value they are getting in the very good schools here and wish to save money they can, but at what cost to themselves in lower home values and at what cost to their children when Amherst can no longer attract good teachers? It is beyond the means of most of Amherst public servants to live in town these days, and there are not a few paraprofessionals with excellent skill and credentials forced to go on food stamps to feed their families already. Please don't nickle and dime the people who provide services to you and your community they are what makes living in Amherst something to be proud of.

Anonymous said...

whoops 1.5 last year

Anonymous said...

If home values were linked to good schools, California would have the best schools on the planet. They don't. California home values, even in areas where the schools are awful, are through the roof.

Abbie said...

to anon@9:56

I get what you are saying. Most folks do a good job. I think everyone thinks they are good at their jobs and deserve a raise. Unfortunately, this year (and probably next) very few folks are getting ANY raise. Some folks are actually getting less because they have to pay more share of their health insurance. I think everyone should get a raise but unfortunately we don't really have the money, hence the need to dip bigtime into town reserves this year. We are down to our nickles and dimes and only have pennies left (next year we won't be able to dip into our reserves like this year). What will be your solution to that???

The more I learn about and experience our schools the more I begin to know we have a good school system (but I don't think a great one). I am frustrated that we have some poor teachers that stick around in the system for years and EVERYONE knows who they are and hopes their kid doesn't get stuck with them. We also have some fantastic teachers, and everyone knows who they are and hopes their kid gets them.

Tell me why the poor teachers are still in the system. This seems to be the job of the principals to either terminate their position or see that they shape up. If they are still in the system then it suggests to me that the principals aren't doing a good job and thus don't warrant a 2% raise, for example. It costs us the same amount of money to pay a good teacher as it does a bad one...

Fed Up Parent said...

Personally, I don't think we have a good school system. I think we USED TO have a good school system but now we have a system living off its past reputation. Period. Please review the fact that our kids in middle and high school are forced to take study halls instead of spending their time in class. Please review the quality of the facilities in two of our open-classroom elementary schools. Please review the costs of providing special education services (including two separate alternative high schools) that everyone who receives these services complains about. Now compare our MCAS scores to those of some of our nearest neighbors (who spend less per pupil). Then tell me we have a good school system.

Anonymous said...

Yes some people in the private sector are paying more for their insurance AND the school staff is paying more again this year.They have had, over the past few years, an increase in the percent deducted from their pay, and this year an increase in both copay amounts and premiums, for many of the staff that increase alone knocks out the 3.5 raise. Next year with the 3% they will be in the hole. Regarding poor teachers: At the teachers initiative a new more structured evaluation process was negotiated in the last contract. It will provide more comprehensive evaluation and feedback to the teaching staff and administration. In the meantime if you know who these poor teachers are you should take it upon yourself to communicate your concerns about these individuals to the principal and the school committee.
As far as why we have crumbling buildings ( tho Crocker farm is a gem) and don't have the money to pay for them look at the max 2.5 property tax and look again at the cost of living amounts you will see that our tax base has not kept up with our costs for many years. go to and you will see that since 2000 we have only had 2 years where inflation was less than 2.5. As far as surrounding towns go we have more students who are in poverty and there is a correlation regarding more needs not a cause a correlation and more students who don't have English spoken at home. I personally know of many students whose families moved to Amherst to obtain the SPED services that they regarded as superior to their home town that is a double edge sword where a good reputation costs more. Re: the kids spending time in study hall the teachers hate this as much as you do, they are not goofing off while the kids are in study hall. If the schools had enough money those kids would be in class.
I also think it is time to take a hard look look at administrative costs and positions that keep being added in Central office we need teaching staff not more bean counters. And take a look at increases in legal fees-why?.
And ask ourselves again do we value schools enough to pay for them? Do we value teaching staff or are administrators more important? Do we value fire and emergency services enough to fund them--Amherst still does not have a station in South Amherst and the time it takes to get to that part of town is way outside the safety limits. WEll that's a little of topic but part of the same picture what do we value in Amherst and how do we pay for it?

Abbie said...


perhaps you can please answer a question for me: These increases are for the coming year, correct? Where will this increased $ come from? We have already passed the school budgets. If I understand this correctly, then these increases will result in decreases elsewhere. What will be cut as a result? This is probably around $100k, or more??

Anonymous said...

The town saved a LOT of money by negotiating the new health insurance package to require more costs be born by the staff. With all the publicity about the raises the papers never did report what the staff already did out of their own pocket "give back" ie the health insurance increases. It seems to have become popular to demonize teachers and public servants while asking the townspeople to pay more taxes to fund these jobs is "an outrage" The school year budgets start July !st and all increases start then staff is already paying the higher premiums and co-pays. This was already figured into this 09-10 school year budget. Where is needed money coming from? wish I knew- the only way I can figure is if town sells cherry hill golf course and has an override. Oh and maybe we didnt really "need" all those daffodils last year. Town also needs to get some money out of all the land and buildings Amherst College has gobbled up.. That would need a new law , but I don't see why private Colleges have to be Tax exempt they have billions in endowments and have bought acres and acres of in town land thus increasing their value this is for profit is it not? I think the old law is outdated when Amherst College acts more and more like a for profit. And is now even putting up a fence around the Dickenson buidings so the townspeople are even more effectivley shut out whoops that's a different rant sorry. Income needs to be tied to inflation rate if rate over 2.5 otherwise we just get broker and broker every year. Maybe time to raise tax rates other towns Pelham, Shutesbury have higher rates and fewer services to fund. In reality too there are many people in Amherst who can and do send their children to private schools and if they send them to charter school at $20,000 to $30,000 a pop the sending school has to cover that that is a huge increase over the cost to keep that child in district. These people have no stake in the quality of Amherst schools so will most likely to my mind be reluctant to support any overide.

Anonymous said...

Yes, I agree that many people move to Amherst because of SPED services and that increase is unsustainable. Our budget for SPED has increased every year for years while our budget for regular education continues to decrease. What are our priorities? To provide the majority of students with a great and rigorous education or to provide the minority of students (i.e. SPED students) with every conceivable educational option (the point about the two alternative high schools was a good one) and justify it because it is "required by law?" More and more families with SPED needs will continue to move into Amherst because it IS known for those services and this will further squeeze our budget and hurt our regular education programs. We need to change direction.

Abbie said...

to Anon@1:34 (same as 9:46 and 12:32?? why stay anonymous? just pick a nom de blog (stay anonymous if you like) just so folks can follow individual posts)

I believe the fence around Emily's house was put up with CPAC could check on that.

I find your rant largely incoherent. Are you willing to pay more taxes and vote for an override?

I am fully behind an override. Like I said I think a lot of folks should get a raise, the FACT is NOW we don't have the money to give them. If we passed an override then we would have the money to pay for raises!!!

Anonymous said...

FYI - The two alternative high schools serve the needs of completely different constituencies. Hence, the need for two different programs. They are not duplicative.

Red Up Parent said...

But really, do we NEED these two alternative high schools? I know they serve two different types of kids with problems but couldn't they share one facility? After all, we have multiple programs/multiple grades under one roof at all our other schools! Look at Crocker Farm with a preschool and an elementary school under one roof. Do we need to provide the extra physical space, extra cost of bussing, and extra cost of utilities to serve such few kids at each school? Is this really a priority of our district??

ed said...

Every rental unit occupied by an evil UMass student is one that can't be occupied by the parent of a special needs child....

Anonymous said...

....'the two alternative high schools serve two different types of kids'... One is a semi-lock down whereas you must be 'wanded' to enter and doors are locked so one has to be buzzed in, this would be the East Street school. The other, the South Amherst Campus, serves special needs kids with behavioral issues, although what these issues may involve do not warrant a 'wand down' to enter this building. Administrators running these programs, including the former superintendent, must rake in the big dollars....and all the new administrative postions that have appeared over the years is simply mind boggling given the fact that the system as a whole is in a 'structural defecit'
Fed Up Parent has hit the head on the nail when s/he says we used to have a good system. It is out of control these days and has become a business for profit, not a service to our youth. Home school here I come...=)

Joel said...

Hmm, an override? Given the large percentage of town residents who work at UMass and Amherst College, which gave no salary increases, how exactly are we supposed to pay for an override? The town already upped my house's assessed value in the midst of the worst real estate crash since the 1930s, why would I support an override, especially given my wife's 0% and my 0% raises?

Rick said...

"Sanderson said she abstained from the regional vote because she didn't understand all the raises, which included some "step" increases and varied considerably by position."

If it cannot even be made clear to an SC member about who exactly is getting what raise and why, then no wonder the public often throws up its hands and can't figure out what's going on.

Probably the step increase system could be explained in a simple way - but it's not.

Abbie said...


I guess you will be content then to have the schools cut further next year. I don't believe that you couldn't pay $400 more next year in prop taxes. That's about $8/week. How many coffees do you buy a week? Its a question of priorities. If paying more keeps the schools from getting worse or, hopefully helps them improve then I am going to forgo a couple of fancy coffees a week or put less aside for my retirement. $400 bucks is a lot less than the cost of private ed.

Without an override we will see more of what happened this year. Anyone who thinks next year will be better is delusional.

There is a lot of property in Amherst that is assessed unfairly low. I think its great that the assessors office is picking up on those. Real estate in Amherst has dropped only a little, you can't compare it to national trends.

Anonymous said...

Last time we voted for an override, the SPED budget increased exponentially. No way is the town going to approve an override unless the money goes to the education of ALL the kids, not just the SPED budget.
Also, just because Amherst College has a large endowment doesn't mean the town has any right to it. It is money donated TO the college from it's alums. Why on earth do you think the town has any right to it????

Rick said...

Thoughts about step increase and average teacher pay:

I think, but am not sure, that this is what the step increase system is.

Say the starting salary for a teacher is $30,000 and the highest salary (for someone there 20 years or whatever) is $70,000, with the average $50,000 – using round numbers.

All teachers, regardless of pay level, get whatever COLA increase there is for that year.

Then everyone except the $70k people gets a step increase to gradually move them from $30k to $70k over 20 years (or however long it takes to get to the highest level).

If this is correct, then I wonder if over time the step increase has any real effect on average teacher pay because older higher paid teachers leave and younger lower paid teachers arrive:

10 teachers at $70k leave.
10 teachers at $30k arrive.

The above lowers the average teacher pay, and over a long period, should equal what the increase is due to the step program – the combination causes no net increase to average teacher pay.

If this analysis is correct, then only the COLA increase effects average teacher pay if you look at a long enough time period (probably 10 years).

Now in times when we are cutting total number of teachers, average teacher pay may go up because younger teachers are cut first – I think – due to seniority rules.

Anyone know if the above is correct?

Rick said...

On real estate assessment:

Everyone knows that assessment has no effect on the average tax bill right? If your assessment goes up it does not necessarily mean that your taxes go up (except for the 2.5% allowed increase under Prop 2-1/2).

You only pay more than 2.5% higher if your assessment – for whatever reason – went up more than “your neighbors” – or more than the average in town did. It’s very possible that could happen, but for every person whose assessment went up “too much” there is another person whose assessment went up “too little.

People get confused about this all the time.

All the town does to get the tax rate is this:

Total tax to collect (2.5% more than previous year) / Total assessment of all property = Tax rate. And that rate gets applied to your assessment to figure your tax.

Now I believe that this year a “bad” thing happened; residential property assessments went up more than commercial assessments. Apparently the sales data on commercial versus residential showed that this is what the markets did and so assessors have to go by that. So this is bad because I believe residential owners will see their tax go up by more than 2.5% simply because residential assessments went up by more than commercial.

Joel said...


Everything you say makes sense in most contexts. I can pay more. I'm paying $500 more this year than last because my house value magically went up.

The point of being critical of an override isn't based in my inability to pay more, it's my fear of what will happen with the money. Why, in this economic environment, did some principals receive raises? Will the override money go to more such raises?

I have two kids at Fort River, so I'm "invested" in the success of the schools and paying more in property taxes is a lot cheaper than sending them to private school.

Having said that, I should show you the Fort River yearbook. There are more (many, many more) administrators and specials teachers listed in the front of that book than there are teachers for classrooms. The budgeting and staffing processes are a mess and more money does two things. First, it says we approve of the status quo. And, second, it gives them more money to spend recklessly.

One final note (for now): There was an interesting discussion about English Language Learners on this blog a while ago. Apparently, our schools embrace a practice that is 1) against state guidelines, 2) shown to be ineffective, and 3) incredibly costly. That is, we group kids by language and pay high transportation costs. Why would anyone support an override to continue to fund something like that?

I'll pay double my property taxes once I believe in the management of our schools. The new Fort River principal is quite good, but a raise after one year on the job in this environment with so much waste (which he obviously inherited), is just something I have a hard time supporting.

Rick said...

Joel makes good points and there are a heck of a lot of people who think this: "I'll pay double my property taxes once I believe in the management of our schools."

I am very pro-override, but it just isn’t going to pass – and in a way shouldn’t - if the above perception is not countered in an effective (e.g. with facts) way by ARPS.

My pet peeve has been that there is no information published anywhere that I can find that can really tell us whether or not there are "too many administrators". So people are left to gather this information from yearbooks and other places – which may be very inaccurate.

Alison Donta-Venman said...

Joel does make good points. The key one, I think, is that voters are going to want to see EXACTLY what override money is going to be going toward. I mean SPECIFICALLY, not just "$2 million to maintain level services across budgets" or even "$1 million for the schools and $1 million for the municipal budgets." I think it will take more than that, in this economic climate, for people to vote for an override.

Joel, to take Abbie's analogy further with no actual knowledge of what Joel would or would not support, might be willing to give up fancy coffees (if indeed he buys them!) so his elementary-school-aged kids have smaller class sizes but he might not be willing to give up his fancy coffees to keep the branch libraries open, buy additional police cruisers, repave roads, or countless other things the town also pays for every year.

Joel said...

I would go even a little beyond what Allison and Rick have written here about the override. (First off, I brew my own coffee and you'll have to pry my burr grinder out of my cold, dead hands or whatever Charlton Heston said about his guns). I'll pay more in taxes for quality schools, roads that don't swallow small cars, cops, firefighters, and town services. I don't think we should be the one town in the area to provide social services beyond what any other town provides. We cannot afford it. No single town can. Those are state, federal, and private charitable functions.

More to the point, I first and foremost don't want to pay more in taxes for things that are actually hurting the schools or retarding their ability to provide a quality education for all the town's kids. The English Language Learners issue is just one example.

Rick's point about exactly how we spend the money and many of Allison's previous posts are excellent on this point. We need to know how we're spending our tax dollars, especially when many of us aren't getting raises, but the people who work for us are.

Anonymous said...

when i read about the SC voting for COLAs for administrators, within a month of some of their members trying to shame teachers into giving back their negotiated legal COLAs, i could not believe my eyes! if the administrators of this school system really wanted a better system and wanted to show leadership THEY should decline the raises. If that wasn't going to happen, the SC should have showed leadership and deferred the COLAs for a year.

i am disappointed that catherine and steve abstained. if your reasons for abstaining was a lack of understanding or that you did not receive adequate information to support the raises, you should have voted them down. many of us still believe that where classrooms have felt the brunt of budget cuts, administration could still use a budget scalpel (or ax).

these COLA increases are disappointing, frustrating and infuriating. the sc vote does not build trust or faith in the members of the sc.

Anonymous said...

There we go again --- override! For such a self-proclaimed intelligent group, all you can come up with is "override"? When the pictures of the new police cruisers and new fire engine (posted on Larry's site), as well as the salaries of the Town/Educational administrators are posted, let alone the budgets of the usual suspects, i.e. golf course, branch libraries, are compared with usuage figures; an attempt at any override will be just another waste of taxpayer's money.

Is it beneath Amherst to learn from its neighbor, Hadley? Could we possibly swallow the idea of increasing our tax base and allow some commercial or light industrial development within our sacred borders? Of course, that would necessitate the Inspections Services, Planning Board, Zoning Board, etc. to become slightly more business friendly. Just an idea.

Anonymous said...

To Rick at 9:30

I'll try to help you a bit with the
step increase business.
A few points:
-Teachers do not get them throughout their careers. Anyone on staff now who has been here 15 years (which is quite a significant part of the staff) doesn't get them anymore, and it's NOT because they've reached $70 thousand. Teachers only get them the first 13-14 years of service at the maximum(e.g. - if you don't start on Step 1 because you've had experience elsewhere, you could get quite a bit fewer than 13-14).
- VERY few teachers leave at the $70 thousand level. You need a doctorate and 30 plus years of service to approach that level.
Most teachers, who have masters degrees, leave in the 50-60 range depending on years of service
(e.g. - someone I know who recently left after over 30 years of service had reached a salary of $60 thousand the final year).
Incidentally, that teacher's take-home pay was LESS the final year than the year before because the increase in health insurance voided the meager wage increase for that year.
- You'd have to check with Kathy Mazur, but I think starting teacher pay is more in the mid-30 range (with Bachelors vs. Masters making a difference of a few thousand).
Hope this helps.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Ed - I imagine the administrators could (and maybe should!) form such a union ... and I guess time will tell on whether they do and what the outcome of such negotations would be. I've checked many local districts and can't find any that assign principals to multiple schools -- can you send some examples?

Anonymous 5:48 - I think our principals do a lot more than check teacher attendance ... I see our principals working hard on curriculum stuff and mentoring/evaluating teachers.

Abbie - it was a hard vote ... I abstained from one (regional level), and I voted in favor of one (Amherst level). I think the issue of supporting the raises was NOT about the COLA actually going up 2% -- I think it was in part in recognition that the teachers were getting a higher raise (had the teachers reduced their raises, I certainly think the administrators should have received less or nothing) and in part in recognition that in other years the raises were LESS than the COLAs (so this was a bit of a "make up" year). I certainly share your belief that hard work should very much follow.

Anonymous 9:56 - I think you make two really important points here. 1. As I note above, no one complains when administrators get LESS of a raise than the COLA ... which does happen in some years. 2. With the reduced staff, it is quite likely that the remaining adminstrators will be doing more work.

Anonymous 10:04 - OK, I get your point re. California here, but I think it is fair to say that home prices do reflect, in part, the quality of the public schools. Surely that helps explain why Amherst houses cost more than those in Belcherstown?

Fed Up Parent - I hate to say it, but I agree with much of what you said. It seems clear that our school system is NOT what it used to be, nor is it what kids in other districts (even close by) are getting (e.g., the two study halls is a good start). And yes, the reputation can last for a while, but I also hear that a growing number of families are considering private/charter school (and even moving), and that is really concerning. The reputation can only last so long before it starts to become apparent that things have really changed, yes?

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My responses:

Abbie - when the budget is created (and approved), there is some "wiggle room" built in (e.g., if a teacher gets pregnant and we need to hire a sub to replace her for a time on maternity leave; if we hire a person with more experience as a teacher and thus pay that person more than a new teacher, etc.). The raises given at all levels still leave money left in this already existing account. So, there are no cuts to anything else to pay for these.

Anonymous 1:34 - I believe that the increased cost of health insurance was very minimal in terms of individual subscribers ... as I recall, and if I'm wrong post the correct details, the change in health insurance also reduced costs for most employees themselves (including teachers). And just to be accurate -- we pay 13,000 to charter schools (not 20 to 30,000). I think hoping Amherst College will no longer have tax exempt status to solve our school/town finance problems is not a good idea ... we should be thinking of ideas within our control and that are more feasible. So, selling Cherry Hill Golf Course is one idea ... an override is another ... and others?

Anonymous 1:47 - there is a review of the SPED program planned for the upcoming year. I believe it will be essential for that review to examine what % of kids are being categorized as special needs (some have said to me they believe we are "overdiagnosing" kids, which may or may not be right) as well as whether we are using cost-effective and education-effective strategies in all our SPED programs. I look forward to learning the results of that external evaluation.

Anonymous 2:36/Red Up Parent - just FYI to you both. The two alternative high schools COULD be under one roof - that was proposed by then superintendent Maria Geryk this spring as a great use for the MM school building (and yes, that would save the district money by consolidating these two programs, and continuing to utilize the free utilities at MM, and freeing up those other two buildings for rent/sale). I hope U Mass will seriously consider allow the use of MM in this way.

Anonymous 5:09 - two quick points here. First, I've seen the salaries of all people in our district. I'm not sure what you consider "big dollars" but I was shocked by how very few people in our district are making over $100,000. The dollars may not be as big as you may assume. Second, we may or may not have too many administrators. I don't know the answer to this question, but I know that it is a question many people have, and the district and the School Committee owe a good answer on this front. I'm working to get these numbers, and to get comparisons to other districts of our size.

Joel - indeed.

Rick - I can't say much here without violating executive session, but let me just say that there was an explanation of the raises and how they were calculated (and how they differed for different people). But the reality is that we have had four different superintendents over the 13 months -- Jere through last June, Helen/Al from Sept. to March, Maria from March to June -- and the superintendents are in charge of really evaluating how people are doing and what raises (if any) they should receive. I had trouble understanding how such evaluations could have taken place in a consistent way, given the many leadership transitions. These raises may all have been totally appropriate ... I just didn't feel the level of confidence I needed (given the fiscal state of our district) to support them.

Anonymous 9:25 - two very good points. I think people are NOT going to support an override unless they think it will benefit ALL kids (or at least, THEIR kids). And it isn't clear to many that giving the schools more money would have an impact on THEIR OWN KIDS (I'm not saying whether this is right or wrong -- but it is definitely the perception held by some). And yes, it is hard to imagine Amherst College fundraising from alums to support the local schools ... particularly at a time in which Amherst College is laying off people and giving NO raises!

Rick said...

I was directed to this page for ARPS contracts:

Page 33 of the Professional Staff contract shows the step table for 2009-2010:

It is confusing to say the least in that the percent increases vary from column to column.

Also, I could not easily find the COLA here – it is not stated that I can see, but rather you have to take table’s for each year and figure it out for yourself – unless I missed it someplace.

This is typical I’m afraid – a very complex thing that nobody makes an effort to explain simply for the public.

And this has consequences, such as when people at town meeting get up and say teachers are getting 4% + 3% when in fact not all are getting 4% (step) but nobody knows what the real deal is so its hard to counter with facts.

Ed said...

I can't say much here without violating executive session, but let me just say that there was an explanation of the raises and how they were calculated (and how they differed for different people).

I disagree about this being legitimate executive session material. If you were to be discussing specific decisions, eg "we will give him an extra $5K because he is single and might leave, but not her because her husband wouldn't leave town" - that is executive session stuff.

But when you have an established step policy, that - like the actual figures paid to each person - is public info! If there is an actual step policy used, that is public, as is the specific of the individuals (how long they have been there, their qualifications) and why was this in executive session?

My understanding is that Exec Ses was ONLY for *DISCRETIONARY* things, not established policies which themselves should have been published.

Ed said...

As to multiple building principles, Wakefield used to do it, but checking now, I see that they have actually CLOSED over half of their elementary schools.

But at one point, each principal had two schools - and that worked fairly well. And since it has been a time since I looked at that district, I really don't feel comfortable saying much more than they DID have that.