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Letters to the Editor

Posted: Monday, November 18, 2002

Compromise possible only when rhetoric takes back seat to reality

After much thought I've decided to respond to Ms. Phillips' letter of Nov. 4. She is pessimistic about a settlement, and I confess some days my optimism joins her side. She accurately quoted me as stating my daughter-in-law, Allison, earned $19,500 in 1999-2000 as a science teacher in Malad, Idaho (Oneida School District; phone, 208-766-4701). Allison recently finished seven weeks as a substitute in the same school and was initially offered $8 per hour with no pay for prep time. Unfortunately, this scale of pay is common in much of the rural mountain west.

Ms. Phillips also is correct that central office directors receive a car allowance as well as mileage. This was started at the time of Dr. Robert Holmes, supposedly to compensate them for having to have a car available at all times, and perhaps to alleviate the salary cuts most took to become directors. It is my sense that the board will correct that this year.

She is correct that I feel our teacher salaries are not out of line nationally. However, I am dismayed that teachers nationwide receive only two-thirds the pay of the average college graduate. I suggest anyone wanting to do salary comparisons go to www.asbj.com and click on "Education Vital Signs" for a detailed and well documented comparison of school data (the "20/20" insert in the newspapers recently also had interesting comparative bar graphs of teachers salaries and per capita income for the state).

Now for the areas where her information seems inaccurate.

First, while the policy manual does allow full health insurance coverage for board members, several donate their coverage back to the district. The few who take the coverage have always made the same co-pay as the teachers. The policy will be changed to reflect that at the next board meeting.

Second, her suggestion that we are camouflaging administrators as teachers is incorrect and would violate state chartered accounting law.

Third, I'm not sure how she got the impression from me that Mr. Putney was hired for a strike threat. The superintendent selected Mr. Putney as human resources director based on her best judgment. She usually notifies board members individually of her selection. I was told that it had been difficult to choose between two good candidates, Mr. Peterson and Mr. Putney, but that she had selected Mr. Putney. Initially, I was pleased that he had negotiations skills. I was more concerned about his ability to assist the principals with their "needs improvement" teachers who unfavorably affect the reputation of their colleagues.

One principal later told me Mr. Putney was doing an excellent job in that area. To this day I do not know why he was released from his position, as that is privileged personnel information. I can only say I lost a bet to a teacher friend that he would be gone in a year, and now owe her a Dutch oven dinner. If knowing Mr. Putney had negotiations experience when he was hired is considered inappropriate, so be it.

To me, to blame the lack of settlement on Mr. Putney or to compare salaries in Malad, Idaho; Winnetka, Illinois; or even Palmer, Alaska, has limited utility. Rather, we need to see what we can craft with the budget we have. While I dislike negotiations and would prefer to have a town hall meeting with all employees to analyze the budget and come to a consensus on allocations, that is not the way the system works. I offer the following information so people can draw their own conclusions on why negotiations have been difficult.

1. Increase in district budget 1991-2001 -- $1 million per year for a total of $10 million.

2. Percent of disposable budget in salaries and benefits -- 84.4.

3. Estimated first-year costs of employee contract proposals -- more than $10.5 million.

4. Total salaries of all noncertified employees (custodians, nurses, aides, secretaries) -- $10 million.

5. Number of teachers to equal $10.5 million -- 170.

6. Total cost of all school and central office administration -- $5 million.

7. Likelihood of increased state funding with new governor -- ???

8. Percent decrease in teacher's buying power in the last 10 years -- 16 percent.

The employees talk about what they deserve (and I agree), and the board about what we can afford. Is there room for consensus or compromise? I hope so.

Nels Anderson

Soldotna

Negotiations indicate teacher strike becoming a foregone conclusion

"Teacher strike imminent!" is the headline our Peninsula Clarion is missing lately. Anyone following the developing "negotiations" should see the writing on the wall, on billboards and in this paper. As a concerned parent and a member of a labor organization myself (Teamsters), I feel there are many unresolved issues worthy of a strike.

At a recent teacher-parent conference, I was given the opportunity to ask several teachers "are you willing to strike?" The answer was clear and unanimous: "I don't want to, but I will."

Parents I talk to have the attitude of "it can't happen here." Given the present circumstances, it seems it will. The Clarion may be missing the headline today, but the ones coming will be impossible to ignore, starting with "Teacher strike starts today."

Curt Wilcox

Kenai

Numerous individuals, businesses make food bank a success

We have so much to be thankful for it is difficult to know where to begin. On behalf of the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank's board of directors, its staff and most importantly, those we serve, we would like to thank our community for the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of literally thousands of adults and children throughout the Kenai Peninsula.

To the more than 450 people who have volunteered countless hours this year to help feed the hungry, we offer our heartfelt appreciation. Your selfless contributions of time and talents are absolutely priceless. To individuals and businesses who have donated goods and services, we extend our sincere thanks. Your generosity allows the food bank to use its limited funds to better serve the increasing number of hungry people needing assistance.

Our deepest gratitude goes out to the local grocery stores and wholesalers, churches, schools, organizations and individuals for their donations of food. Donated food items comprise over half of the food we give away each year -- gifts of health and hope to someone in need.

Finally, thank you to all those who have so generously given financial support. The food bank is funded entirely by donations, grants and United Way allocations. Your contributions make it possible for the food bank to obtain food, heat and light the building, provide power for the freezers and coolers, operate the soup kitchen, maintain and fuel the vehicles for transporting food and fund the many other things it takes to ensure our needy neighbors do not go hungry. We treasure your confidence in the food bank as a responsible financial steward.

We are truly blessed to serve such wonderful community. Thank you for choosing the Kenai Peninsula Food Bank as your outreach to those who are experiencing hardship this holiday season and throughout the year.

Peggy Moore

Executive director

Kenai Peninsula Food Bank



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