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Superb Op-ed by Retired AFT Member John Vidovich about Lack of Equity in Mon. Co.

It’s 1988 all over again for schoolteachers

Dominion Post 2/20/2011


   I am a retired Monongalia County teacher. During the past 30 years, I have taught thousands of students and would do it all over again. In that time, I was actively involved in the processes that would bring about better pay and working conditions for teachers. I lobbied in Charleston, wrote to and met with legislators, and wrote letters to the editor, to mention a few. I do not apologize, as some would have me do, for trying to achieve a level of fair pay to benefit my own family and children.
   I kept copies of some of my letters to the editor. Recently, I gave a copy of a 23-year-old letter I wrote to The Dominion Post to my AFT (American Federation of Teachers) representative and told him to show it to politicians during the legislative session. It was uncanny how it clearly showed nothing has changed in the past 23 years. The same points of dissatisfaction with pay and lack of respect for the teaching profession in West Virginia I made in 1988 are still being made in 2011.
   I bring this up because of the recent articles in the newspaper concerning the [Monongalia County Schools] superintendent’s pay raise and the responses from the editor to them. I see once again teachers in Monongalia County, and the rest of the state for that matter, have to endure another round of the “shut up and be happy we pay you anything at all to teach our kids” mindset.
   All of the rebuttal arguments I have read in the newspaper in favor of the superintendent’s raise, including the one about the costs of losing a quality person, hold just as true for quality teachers. As a matter of fact, I personally know many teachers who, if lost, would have a more profound and immediate impact on student performance than any administrator.
   Further, a recent editorial stated that teachers enjoy an average pay of around $44,000. It fails to tell the public:
   That amount is almost dead last in the nation;
   The average pay level cited requires a master’s degree, plus additional college courses costing thousands of dollars and years to achieve;
   Many teachers on the upper end of the pay scale inflate that figure because they cannot afford to retire and remain working well past 30 years;
   And after financing the hefty cost of attending college, many young teachers are struggling and need to work extra jobs to make ends meet.
   Further information in the same piece mentions that teachers get health benefits, as if this is afforded only to teachers as a special benefit. All public employees are offered health benefits, including superintendents.
   Another argument for the superintendent’s raise is that his job performance justifies it. Well, Suncrest Middle School has achieved the state’s Exemplary School status 10 years in a row, a decade of performance unmatched by any school in the state. If anyone deserves a 15 percent raise, Suncrest’s entire staff does.
   Consider this. Even though teachers have not had a pay raise in four years, the demands put upon them during those four years have exploded: 1. implementing the RTI reading program; 2. administrating “benchmark” testing multiple times during the year; 3. higher WesTest standards and including the scores of students with special needs with all students; 4. analyzing test results and reteaching based on those results; 5. implementing Writing Road Map and testing writing skills multiple times a year; 6. becoming adept in an array of technologies such as setting up student responders, using technology labs and using mobile labs, GPS usage, blogging, and operating whiteboards and implementing their lessons; 7. constantly managing Edline and Grade Quick updates and responding to parent emails; 8. implementing six state mandated online technology lessons on top of everything else they are required to teach.
   And there’s plenty more. These all have merit and should be done, but teachers need to be compensated for all the additional training and time they put in to master and implement these duties.
   Why write of this? This piece was not written as a rebuttal to the superintendent’s proposed raise. Yes, we are fortunate to have him and should keep him. He has done a great job and has an extremely difficult job. What this piece is about is this: When teachers in this state point out that they are at the bottom of the nation’s pay scale, they are met with a “we don’t want to hear it” mentality.
   Well, I have had the privilege to work with so many skilled, knowledgeable, endlessly caring, loving and wonderful teachers. Many are still in the field. I have seen the difference they make every day for students. I know how hard and what long hours they work. Even now being out of the profession, it saddens and frustrates me that these issues never end. I know how these flip editorials and articles in the paper affect morale, and why three out of five teachers leave before their fifth year of teaching to go into another field. It needs to stop. This community, and the people in this state, need to start supporting teachers. Effective, skilled and dedicated teachers are a treasure, and we can’t afford to lose them.