Saturday, January 31, 2009


Here's another excellent editorial about the Roxbury Teacher Contract settlement...this one's from the Star-Ledger. It's followed by a one of the comments posted in response which I think represents how the vast majority of people view the teaching profession in the 21st century.

Roxbury is out step with teacher pay hike
Posted by The Star-Ledger Editorial Board January 30, 2009 5:30AM

Guess the recession hasn't hit Roxbury yet.

On Monday, in one of the state's first teacher contract agreements of the year, the township's board of education handed the district's teachers a four-year pact with raises of 4.3 percent (retroactive to last year) and 4.7 percent for each of the next three years.

That's a 19.7 percent raise over the length of the contract.

And that's irresponsible.

On the same day more than 50,000 jobs cuts were announced nationally, with the country and state in the grip of a recession, the Roxbury school board handed out increases that most taxpayers who work in the private sector certainly won't see this year or next -- if they can even keep their jobs.

If this is where New Jersey teacher contracts are headed this year, jittery and cash-strapped taxpayers had better send a message to their school boards now: Hold the line.

School boards, of course, want to do what's best for the kids. And most board members don't have the stomach to head down the bumpy road of a protracted contract battle, with added legal fees, fact-finding and a possible strike. So they settle.

But school boards also have to serve the taxpayers, who right now are seeing their earning power and property values going down. Some school board, somewhere, has to draw the line. Who will step up? Not Roxbury.

"Roxbury will no longer have one of the lowest starting salaries in Morris County," board member Pat Miller crowed proudly while approving the deal.

Hey, Miller, you've been duped.

You see, that's the New Jersey Education Association's game. The union scares the lower-paying districts into believing they won't attract good teachers unless they agree to oversize raises. Then, the NJEA moves on to the next lower-paying district with the same argument. It becomes a game of leap-frog as every district tries to be above average.

Gov. Jon Corzine has already warned that aid to schools may have to be cut to balance the state budget. Roxbury gets only one-fifth of its budget covered by the state, and can't expect any more help there. So where will the money come from for the teachers' raises if not higher local taxes? Or will some student programs have to be sacrificed?

This is not about whether teachers are overpaid or underpaid. That's endlessly debatable, but it all comes down to the public's ability to pay. And right now that's being squeezed.

One more thing: With all the layoffs in other industries, more workers are looking to enter the teaching ranks. Many would have jumped at $39,500 (with benefits and summers off) -- the former starting salary in Roxbury.

But the starting salary -- the smallest salary earned by the smallest number of teachers -- is a smoke screen used to make any contract more palatable. The median salary for Roxbury teachers in 2007-08 was $57,895. That number is more relevant. And by the end of the contact, it will be $69,305.

How many taxpayers expect to be making almost $12,000 more in three years?

We applaud Maureen Castriotta, the only dissenter in the 8-1 vote. She realized those raises in this economy are just plain silly.

"Did we spend wisely? No," she said. "Did we improve student achievement? No. We're in an economic crisis, but you'd never know it from this contract. People have to wake up."

Posted by thr3putt on 02/01/09 at 9:06AM

First of all, the correct way to calculate the salary increases would be to multiply the original salary by .043, then add that amount to the original salary. Then multiply that new total amount by .047 and add that, and do that two more times. The numbers are correct.

Next, the point of the editorial, if I understand the message, isn't whether teachers are underpaid, it's the ability of the public to pay at this moment. When the taxpayers, who foot the bill, are losing jobs and homes, don't the teachers have an obligation to take less? (Of course not, it's a powerful union, right? They don't care what is happening around them. They want as much as they can get.) When times are good, teachers get raises that are better than average in private industry (and don't use Wall Street as an example to prove me wrong, please; go back and look at some of the 8 and 9 percent raies awarded to teachers); and when times are bad, teachers, as we see, do far better than average.

And then there's the T-word. Yup, I said it. Who else has tenure? What is that worth? What is it value of never having to take a pay cut? Each year, a teacher's salary grows. Who among us can say they have never had to take a step back in their careers when it comes to earnings? What is that job security worth? Like health benefits, there's a monetary value to tenure, and it's considerable. What is it? Tack that onto the salary and benefits to get a real dollar amount. But teachers don't want to talk about that.

One poster commented about the "pressure" and "scrutiny" of being a teacher. But that's just it. With tenure, there is no real pressure or scrutiny. If you're not in danger of losing your job for poor performance, what real scrutiny are you talking about? The rest of us, in the real world, can be fired at any time, for almost any reason, especially job performance. That can't happen to a teacher, basically short of a sexual felony.

That same poster challenged the writer to come up with a one-day lesson and teach it, on which the editorial writer would be graded. Silly, isn't it? Since that's not his/her profession. It's a good thing the editorial writer didn't target brain surgeons.

While studies show that most workers' days/weeks are growing in the numbers of hours worked, teachers time in the classroom is dwindling. And, with several friends who are teachers, I can tell you, it's less than 6.5 hours per day, as the poster commented. And many teachers use sick days as paid holidays.

Yes, I wrote this. Yes, it's in sentences, so I thank all my English teachers. But to say that they deserve exorbitant raises in a recession because of it is silly. And what about the people who were in the same classes who can't write a sentence or spell or use correct grammar now? Should we dock teachers for them? My belief is there are far more of those than there are of me. So that argument fails, too.

If teachers don't like their jobs, here's a solution -- get a new one. Just quit whining about the pay. If they think it will be more rewarding, they should go be a plumber. They selected this profession. The reason there are so many teachers is not because there are tens of thousands of generous souls who are willing to sacrifice for the good of mankind. That's naive. It's because teaching is not a bad way to make a living.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

SPEAKING ON YOUR BEHALF: The Roxbury Teacher Contract

"The dissenter is every human being at those moments of his life when he resigns momentarily from the herd and thinks for himself".

....Archibald Macleish 1892-1982 American Poet

The Roxbury Board of Education approved a 4 year teacher contract by an 8-1 vote during this past Monday's Board of Education meeting. I was the only school board member to cast a vote against this egregious settlement. The Daily Record characterized me as "the lone dissenter" but judging from the great number of public comments posted on the Daily Record and Star-Ledger's websites about this settlement, I am far from alone.

Click on the links to read full articles with comments.

New 4-year deal raises Roxbury teacher pay a total of about 20%
District to see savings on benefits in contract

By Matt Manochio • Daily Record • January 28, 2009
Read Comments

ROXBURY-- Teachers in Roxbury will see their salaries rise by close to 20 percent over the next few years under a contract approved this week by the school board.

The four-year contract calls for a retroactive 4.3 percent raise for the last school year, 4.7 percent for the current school year and 4.7 percent in each of the next two school years.
School board members approved the contract Monday with an 8-1 vote.

Board member Maureen Castriotta was the lone dissenter, saying she felt the deal wouldn't improve student achievement, and that it wasn't fiscally responsible to the taxpayers given the downturn to the economy.

Board Vice President John Moschella on Tuesday said the 4.7 percent figure isn't per teacher, rather it's an overall figure percentage of dollars. Actual percent raises vary depending on where a teacher falls on the 17-step salary guide.

"We gave a 4.7 overall, but we took money from the top steps of the guide and earmarked it from the bottom," he said.
He said the district was able to settle upon the percentages because the Roxbury Education Association agreed to enroll in a cheaper "Direct Access Plan" benefits program operated by the state.

Moschella said the district stands to save $300,000 over a 12-month period during the first two school years in the contract.
He said the health coverage in the new plan resembles what teachers had in their former one. As it stands teachers don't pay into their health benefits, but have co-pays for doctor visits.
The previous contract with the Roxbury Education Association expired in June 2007. This new contract covers four school years, beginning retroactively in July 1, 2007, and concluding on June 30, 2011.

The association represents about 450 school employees, including teachers, secretaries and paraprofessionals.
The new base salary for teachers is $40,417, which is a $917 boost from the former base of $39,500.
The salary guide for all employees gets a retroactive 4.3 percent increase for the 2007-08 school year. Raises of 4.7 percent began on July 1, 2008, and will increase by the same percentage on July 1 of both 2009 and 2010.

"Roxbury will no longer have one of the lowest starting salaries in Morris County," board member Pat Miller told the audience of more than 100 people, most of them teachers, at Monday night's meeting.

The board also unanimously approved a three-year contract for cafeteria workers, which runs from July 1, 2008, through June 30, 2011. New hire hourly rates are $10.65 for general workers, $17.25 for elementary school cooks/managers, $18.25 for middle school cook/managers, and $19.25 for high school cook/managers.

Cafeteria salaries see a 4.25 percent increase this school year, a 4 percent increase next year, and a 3.75 percent increase during the final school year of the contract.

and the following by Fred Snowflack from the Daily Record opinion page:

Teacher wage increases recession-proof
January 28, 2009
Read Comments

On Monday, Pfizer said it would buy Wyeth for $68 billion, a transaction that could result in cutting 20,000 jobs worldwide. That same day, such well-known firms as Caterpillar and Home Depot also announced plans to layoff thousands.

On Monday night, the Roxbury school board approved a contract that would give teachers 4.7 percent raises annually in each of the next three years. The teachers also will get a retroactive 4.3 percent increase for the 2007-08 school year. No matter what happens in the real world, nothing changes in the insular world of teacher contracts in New Jersey.

The contract was approved with one dissenting vote.
That came from Maureen Castriotta, a member of the negotiations committee.
She said the board had blown a great chance to truly serve the community by trying to bring about smaller increases in these troubled times. She said many of her constituents were upset with the contract.

In response, board member Greg Somjen said there always will be critics and that the board is in the business of education. Then, Somjen suggested that those who disagree with the board's approach can try to find another place to live.

That was a pretty snotty line, but it did raise a point Somjen may not have known he was raising. And that is, unless you move to perhaps Kansas, you're not going to avoid these salary increases.

You see, there is nothing unique in New Jersey about teachers getting raises of more than 4 percent a year. That is the problem. And it's one that can't be solved by moving somewhere else in New Jersey.

What is needed is an overhaul of how teacher negotiations are conducted.
As of now, teachers are bound to get the county's average salary increase. That average in Morris County is about 4.5 percent a year.
Say, a school district offers an increase of 2 percent a year. The teachers' union would say "no way," and if there is no movement, one moves to "fact-finding." In the end, the increase is going to be at, or around, the county average.

Change can only come about if a district is courageous enough to challenge the system. Let a district refuse to budge from its 2 percent offer and let the negotiating process in all its steps be carried out. And when the district inevitably loses, let it go to court and challenge the system.

That's the only way to bring about a negotiating session that considers such external factors as the general economy and the state's high property taxes.
Some school district officials understand this, but they lack the will, or the vision, or is it guts, to take a stand. That's a shame.

The alternative is the status quo.

Some may wonder if the state Legislature could change the system. Of course it can.
But that's unlikely. The clout of the New Jersey Education Association is substantial. Its pattern is to support virtually every incumbent legislator regardless of party. It's funny, unions are thought to be liberal, but the NJEA is anything but that. It loves the status quo.

And so would you if you were getting raises approaching 5 percent a year in what has been called the worst economic times since the Depression.
Fred Snowflack is editorial page editor of the Daily Record.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


And to my dear fellow Americans, stand proud! You have once more demonstrated, as you have time and time again throughout our noble and glorious nation's history, an unshakable collective faith in our country's truths and ideals.

'...why abandon a belief
Merely because it ceases to be true.
Cling to it long enough, and not a doubt
It will turn true again...
Most of the change we think we see in life
Is due to truths being in and out of favour.'
...Robert Frost, "The Black Cottage"

by Robert Frost

She had her own idea of things, the old lady.
And she liked talk. She had seen Garrison
And Whittier, and had her story of them.
One wasn't long in learning that she thought
Whatever else the Civil War was for
It wasn't just to keep the States together,
Nor just to free the slaves, though it did both.
She wouldn't have believed those ends enough
To have given outright for them all she gave.
Her giving somehow touched the principle
That all men are created free and equal.
And to hear her quaint phrases--so removed
From the world's view to-day of all those things.
That's a hard mystery of Jefferson's.
What did he mean? Of course the easy way
Is to decide it simply isn't true.
It may not be. I heard a fellow say so.
But never mind, the Welshman got it planted
Where it will trouble us a thousand years.
Each age will have to reconsider it.
You couldn't tell her what the West was saying,
And what the South to her serene belief.
She had some art of hearing and yet not
Hearing the latter wisdom of the world.
White was the only race she ever knew.
Black she had scarcely seen, and yellow never.
But how could they be made so very unlike
By the same hand working in the same stuff?
She had supposed the war decided that.
What are you going to do with such a person?
Strange how such innocence gets its own way.
I shouldn't be surprised if in this world
It were the force that would at last prevail.
Do you know but for her there was a time
When to please younger members of the church,
Or rather say non-members in the church,
Whom we all have to think of nowadays,
I would have changed the Creed a very little?
Not that she ever had to ask me not to;
It never got so far as that; but the bare thought
Of her old tremulous bonnet in the pew,
And of her half asleep was too much for me.
Why, I might wake her up and startle her.
It was the words 'descended into Hades'
That seemed too pagan to our liberal youth.
You know they suffered from a general onslaught.
And well, if they weren't true why keep right on
Saying them like the heathen? We could drop them.
Only--there was the bonnet in the pew.
Such a phrase couldn't have meant much to her.
But suppose she had missed it from the Creed
As a child misses the unsaid Good-night,
And falls asleep with heartache--how should I feel?
I'm just as glad she made me keep hands off,
For, dear me, why abandon a belief
Merely because it ceases to be true.
Cling to it long enough, and not a doubt
It will turn true again, for so it goes.
Most of the change we think we see in life
Is due to truths being in and out of favour.
As I sit here, and oftentimes, I wish
I could be monarch of a desert land
I could devote and dedicate forever
To the truths we keep coming back and back to.