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.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

School Zone: Sizing up Amherst, Northampton salaries

Hampshire Gazette
Saturday, May 15, 2010

AMHERST - The question of whether Amherst pays its teachers more than Northampton has finally been answered. Sort of.

The average Amherst salary of about $60,000 is higher than in Northampton, but some have argued that the salary scales are similar, and the reason for the disparity is that Amherst teachers have more experience. Joe Cullen of the Amherst Budget Advisory Committee compared all the salaries for the five educational levels and 20 "steps" or experience levels and calculated the difference between Amherst and Northampton for each category.

He found that Northampton teachers with a B.A. at step 1 make $526 more than in Amherst and $894 more if they have an M.A. But at all other steps, teachers with bachelor's degrees make more in Amherst, such as $4,749 more at step 13.

Most teachers with more education than bachelor's degrees make more money in Northampton than in Amherst only in steps 8 through 11; at step 11 with a doctorate, Northampton teachers make $5,750 more. But Amherst pays more to the experienced teachers at steps 13 and up than Northampton, as much as $7,127 more.

School Committee member Steve Rivkin said it isn't clear whether the salary disparity is good or bad, and the numbers don't look at working conditions, such the amount of time spent in the classroom.

Note from Catherine: These analyses, which were presented at the SC meeting on Tuesday night, reveal that if Amherst paid teachers accordig to the same salary/step rate as Northampton, we would have saved over $1,000,000. This is exactly the type of analysis I believe we should be doing regularly -- meaning comparing all aspects of education in Amherst to that in other peer communities -- and this is an example of the great work that came out of the Citizens Budgetary Advisory Committee, which I really hope will continue.


LarryK4 said...

Transparency is a good thing.

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My response to Larry - I absolutely agree. And I'm hoping we see more and more of it.

Anonymous said...

Like an explanation (in public session) for the motives behind the Union 26 inquiry, for example?

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

My response:

Anonymous 8:30 - I guess you haven't been really following the meetings, so I've posted the entire section from the Amherst SC meeting on April 27th in which this explanation was given and discussed, during a public meeting covered by the press, attended by the public, and shown live on TV:

"Mr. Rivkin then made a motion to request guidance from an attorney, to be recommended by the legal services subcommittee, regarding alternative arrangements to the Superintendent’s Union 26 with Pelham. Mr. Spence seconded and discussion followed. Mr. Rivkin noted that he believes the Amherst and Pelham Superintendent’s Union presents a number of issues, one of which is that Amherst pays 40% and Pelham pays 3% of the Superintendent’s salary. Despite the differences in the number of students and financial burden, both towns have equal voting representation in hiring a Superintendent and Mr. Rivkin believes the current arrangement is negative for Amherst. Mr. Hood asked if the main reason for hiring an attorney is to get advice on what alternative arrangements can be made with regard to the Union 26 Agreement. Mr. Rivkin noted that is the intention. Mr. Hood stated that he hopes the district will not spend too much money on the review. Mr. Rhodes stated that the attorney should be able to complete the review and interpretation fairly quickly so it should not cost a great deal. He noted that if a decision is made to make a change in the agreement, that will require additional time and those costs will be spread out during the FY11 fiscal year. Elaine Fronhofer, community member and attorney, expressed concern about the years of cuts to the schools and where money is being spent. She noted that the new law regarding school unions is complicated, and she believes it will take more time to review than the School Committee is assuming. In addition, she noted that the former law was designed to ensure that small towns have some representation in choosing Superintendents. After further brief discussion, the School Committee unanimously approved the motion."

Anonymous said...

Staff salaries need to be examined as well.
School secretaries are making more than teachers with advanced college degrees.

Anonymous said...

I so agree with this last post--Teachers with degrees and trainings who make the plans and keep the meetings--of which the paraprofessionals are excluded from, make nearly 3 times as much as the paraprofessional, some with the same degrees as the teachers they work with. Why is it that Amherst excludes the paraprofessional from these meetings, ex:w/parents, w/other staff, and trainings, and salaries??
Yes--Staff salaries need a close examination...

crabby taxpayer said...

It costs more to educate Amherst students because Amherst school costs are higher at every level: teacher salaries, admnistrator salaries, overhead costs, SPED, equipment, etc. What is the mystery here? Can no one look at these higher numbers and see that they are higher? If they can't why are they in their jobs or elected positions?

Anonymous said...

What are the amherst sc members afraid of? What are the amherst sc members trying to hide?

Anyone else notice that this sudden interest in the union 26 agreement followed so closely on the heels of the amherst sc members not getting their way on the interim supt vote?

Catherine A. Sanderson said...

Anonymous 1:39 - two quick points here.

First, the Amherst SC meetings have had three public meetings, covered by the press, minuted, and shown on TV discussing the Union 26 agreement. We are doing a REALLY bad job of hiding! I guess I'm confused as to why the Pelham members needed to have a separate discussion in the middle of another meeting (that was a regional meeting) when the reasons why Amherst is seeking legal representation have already been fully covered.

Second, I actually agree that the Union 26 thing would not be being discussed if the superintendent hire on March 9th occurred the way it did. The outcome of this vote was a rather clear demonstration that the interests of those elected to serve Pelham might well differ from the interests of those elected to serve Amherst. And given that these interests were quite divided (100% of Pelham SC members voting to appoint an interim superintendent for 15 months without any public comment; 80% of Amherst SC members -- and all of those potentially running for re-election -- not wanting to make a 15-month appointment without any public comment), it then seemed quite odd that at the Union 26 level, both Amherst and Pelham had 50% of the votes. I heard from a number of parents and community members who were really concerned about this, and felt that their voting for candidates they supported in Amherst was basically useless, since ultimately, Pelham could block any superintendent hire.