Letters to the Editor

Posted: Monday, November 04, 2002

School board not looking hard enough for contract resolution

A response to comment on school contract negotiations and board meetings: I am truly hopeful Dr. Nels Anderson and the school board are serious about wanting to reach a resolution in mediation as stated by Dr. Anderson in his letter to the editor and the board at its meeting Oct. 22. I, too, am concerned that it will take much longer to restore a sense of trust and to soothe the anger and animosity that some have expressed.

Allow me to share my reasons for this pessimism, starting with the continuing denial by the administration and board in accepting responsibility for the bad beginning by hiring Mr. Putney. Dr. Anderson's denial in his letter to the editor, stating Mr. Putney was brought in for human resources, contradicts statements made to me by Dr. Anderson while we were on a break at negotiations last spring.

He told me the reason Mr. Putney was brought in was in response to strike threats by teachers before negotiations even got started. During this same conversation, he stated he felt our teachers' pay was in line with the rest of the state and nation. In fact, he has a daughter-in-law in Idaho who is teaching for a salary of $19,000 a year. He challenged me to look it up on the Internet. I did and was unable to find any education salary that low in the public sector in Idaho. When asked if he was not ashamed that our teachers with a family of four qualified for low-cost lunch, he responded that is because the income levels were set so low.

My point is there seems to be an answer for everything, better known as rhetoric, and none of it about the fact of the matter. That matter being we need to pay our teachers what they earn and are worth for their responsibilities, that of our children. It is not a money issue, but an allocation issue. It is called priorities!

At the last board meeting, the cry and hue was there was just no money and Dr. Anderson stated teachers would have to be laid off. Is there only a teacher budget in this school district to fund teachers? Where do the dollars come from for the administration to buy a luxury vehicle and pay administrators $270 per month, per person, vehicle allowance and mileage, which happens to be against board policy which says they get one or the other. Granted, that is only a $10,000 expenditure, but perhaps we could start those drops in the bucket Mr. Pointdexter referred to.

Regarding administrators, how about the two administrative positions being charged to each school and budgeted as teachers that do not exist, as they are specialists in administration and never set a foot in the school room? (This also affects statistics for student-teacher ratios). Or perhaps the school board health insurance, whereby each board member pays less than teachers do.

I am sure there are a lot of other places to look, but it requires a mindset of wanting to look for a way to provide a decent salary and benefits for our teachers. Thus, we can start rebuilding our education and would address Dr. Anderson's and my concern of our schools not being what they used to be.

If the philosophy of the board and administration remains them against us, the madness of this dissension will continue. If, on the other hand, they are guided by principles and integrity there is hope. I sensed some board members are leaning toward this. Only then will I be able to turn my pessimism into optimism as negotiations will be settled and our community can begin to heal.

Billie Jean Phillips, Soldotna

Board figures misleading; teachers deserve simplified salary schedule

The Kenai Peninsula Borough school board has invited the public to check out information about its contract offer to the employees on the KPBSD Web site. Please be aware there is some confusing data. It is not technically wrong, but I found it confusing and misleading.

It shows that the top salary for the 2002-03 school year, if the offer is adopted, would be $63,373. However, although that is the top salary on the schedule, no teacher will be allowed to advance to that step. At most, the top paid teachers will be allowed two steps, because they are adding steps. So the top salary will be $62,098. That is a 3.8 percent increase, not a 5.9 percent increase as stated.

With the district's offer, teacher A, with certificate plu 18 credit hours on step 0, will earn $34,000 for the 2002-03 school year. That is a $500 increase over what a teacher with a certificate plus 18 hours and no experience (step 0) earned during 2001-02. That $500 is a 1.5 percent increase, or a raise of 33 cents an hour.

On the chart, the district compares a teacher with a certificate plus 18 credits on step 0 for the school year 2001-02 with a teacher with a certificate + 18 on step 1 for the school year 2002-03. That step 1 teacher earns $34,568 this year with the old contract. They already received their first check. The district's offer, if it goes into effect, will give them a $500 per year salary raise. Steps and columns are not raises, they are part of the salary schedule.

By comparison, a teacher in Anchorage earns $34,737 with a bachelor's plus 18 hours, and no experience. In Mat-Su, a teacher with no experience only has to have a bachelor's plus 15 credits to earn $36,901.

Another difference between the KPBSD schedule and Anchorage and Mat-Su is that KPBSD teachers only get credit for classes they have taken after getting their certificate, not their degree. Often teachers choose to raise children or travel while taking more classes before they apply for their certificate.

An Alaska certificate is valid for five years and costs more than $200. Each state has its own certificate and fee. With our district, graduate classes taken before you get your certificate do not count unless the teacher gets her master's degree. In Anchorage and Mat-Su, they count.

There are more misleading figures for the teacher B and teacher C examples. It would be easier to understand if the chart read like this:

Credits Step 01-02 02-03 03-04 04-05

A: C+18 0 $33,500 $34,000 $35,000 up to 2%

B: C+54/M 4 $41,460 $41,960 $42,960 up to 2%

C: C+90/M 15 $58,650 $59,650 $60,150 up to 2%

Teachers with more than 15 years of experience would get an additional raise because the district is willing to increase the steps given for experience up to 17 years in 2002-03 and 18 years in 2003-04. By comparison, Anchorage School District now gives steps for up to 21 years of experience. Mat-Su only gives steps for 13 years of experience, but the teachers on step 13 earn $65,960 if they have a master's degree, and $59,503 if they have a bachelor's degree.

Another misleading figure is the salary amount used for teacher C. The district included a longevity payment, which not every teacher on step 15 receives. That payment is like having a step 16. A teacher who has been receiving the longevity payment has been earning $59,823. The new contract does give them a bigger raise by allowing them to advance to step 17. Indeed, if they take the longevity payment away and did not increase the steps to at least 16, those teachers would be cut to $59,650.

Allowing them to advance to step 16, gives them a $1,000 raise from the longevity payment step. Allowing them to advance two steps puts them at $62,098. This is the biggest raise that any teacher could receive and still is only a 3.8 percent increase for 2002-03. Interestingly, a teacher who has made the effort to get her doctorate will earn the same salary as the teacher with certificate plus 90 credits or a master's degree for the last four steps.

Are you confused yet? One thing the union would like to see is a simplified salary schedule that an applicant can understand to determine her projected salary. They want the certificate language to be returned to bachelor's degree. This was changed in 1997-98.

In the KPBSD, once you are hired, you have to explain to the personnel director why you should be given credit for the classes you have taken after you received your certificate. They will only give you credit for classes you can justify, because they apply to the teaching position being offered to you, even though you could be transferred to another position later.

Molly Brann, Teacher fourth, fifth, sixth grades, Kachemak Selo School

Clarion's front page news, pictures fail to cover newsworthy subjects

My opinion of newsworthy items appearing on the front page of the Clarion has been long overdue. I'm not talking about sensationalism, but the importance of letting the community know that one of its young citizens was killed in a local industrial accident.

I find it difficult to comprehend that the Clarion didn't think it important enough to let its readers know about it until six days after the incident and four days after the individual had passed, even though the death notice appeared two days after his passing. And worse than that, it appeared on page 10. I think the Clarion should reassess the importance of its front page "news."

I, for one, would like to see whatever is "late-breaking," perhaps even nationally, considered as newsworthy on the front page instead of bear skulls (newsworthy, but not front-page newsworthy), someone lighting a cigarette, a moose outside someone's window (we never tire of looking at moose, but front page?), a week-old picture of the Kenai bluff being washing away, someone sorting recycled cans or any of the other trivial pictures taking up space.

Don't get me wrong, these may be newsworthy articles, but not front page. Come on, let's start informing the local readers of what is really going on.

Jan Kirstine, North Kenai

Bush administration will bankrupt nation with war against Iraq

Can anyone fail to see the irony here?

On Tuesday, President Bush signed legislation that he said would "make sure every vote gets counted," when just two years ago he used a team of lawyers and countless courtrooms to make sure every vote did not get counted. Gosh, maybe next he will admit that his economic plan and his solo war on Iraq are about to bankrupt the government.

By the way, "the government" actually means you and I and all the other taxpayers who will have to come up with the $3.8-trillion deficit projected by the Congressional Budget Office.

I know, my eyes glaze over too when someone talks about trillions of dollars, but the reality is we will spend decades paying for the debt this administration has created in just two years.

Erik Huebsch, Kasilof

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