How much is fair pay?

Everyone deserves fair compensation for doing their job.
Every three years, the process of negotiating the Teachers contract comes up. It has always troubled me that taxpayers are not allowed to listen in on the negotiation process. It's a law that should be changed. At the polls all we see is a dollar amount that will be needed to fund increases.
The problem is that the public isn’t well informed about what the total true compensation includes. The propaganda put out by the Union and a few School Board members can be misleading. For example, in March 2019 we heard again all about how poorly the teachers get paid. I disagree.

Statements made by the Union included: “2.5% salary increase for teachers still keeps them below the state average” and “the last two years teachers received less than a 0.5% raise!” Some of our School Board reps actually signed on to this misrepresentation and advocated for approval of the proposed 2019-2022 contract! The truth is quite different. There are layers of additional compensation that nobody talks about. I intend to educate you. Thanks to teachers, I can add! Here is a quick list of what is actually included in their compensation.

1: The teachers receive pay according to a chart listed in the contract. (see below) Each year a new chart is used with higher numbers. The last contract charts went up by about 1/2 of 1 percent each year. The proposed contract which did not pass in March 2019 sought to increase each year’s chart by 2.5%.  What they didn't tell you was that the chart includes 13 “steps”. Each year teachers go up one step and get about a 3% pay increase except for year 13 which pays about a 9% increase! The step increases are on top of  the chart increases. A 2.5% chart increase combined with a step increase results in about a 6% yearly increase! I can't vote "yes" for that.

But there are several additional ways to increase compensation:

2: There are 6 columns in the chart. If an employee increases their qualifications through additional education by acquiring a more advanced degree, they get to move over a column which gives an additional pay increase. These are called track changes. On top of that, each track upgrade comes with an additional payment of $1000.

3: The cost of increasing their education (up to 4 credits at UNH) is paid by the District. Each employee can request up to $400 for reimbursement for participating in “…workshops, conferences and other professional development activities…”

4: Teachers who remain employed more than 8 years receive “longevity pay”. This is calculated at $150 per year beginning with their employment.
On year 9, they begin receiving $1350 per year in addition to their regular pay and the amount increases every year by $150 as long as they are employed.

5: When they retire under certain conditions (over 55, 15 years of employment) they receive a one-time payment of $9000.

Currently, they also receive a "Cadillac" insurance plan, 82.5% paid by the taxpayers. For an employee that signs up for the family plan, this results in an additional compensation of $23,923 ($28,998 X 82.5%). They may not see it in their paycheck, but it is received as a benefit.  Taxpayers also bear the burden of 82.5% of the health insurance premium increases each year. See my post about health in for more on that:  http://talkingwakefield.com/health-insurance-101/

The work year consists of 180 instructional days and up to 7 in-service days. Us working blokes put in about 240 days a year. (5 days a week X 50 weeks minus 10 holidays)
Available time off includes 13 sick days, 3 days professional leave, 3 days personal leave and up to 5 days bereavement leave.  Below is the current pay scale chart. Click on it for a bigger view.

Other statements made by the Union and certain Board members seem to promote the idea that our teachers are below the state average. According to the Union, the state average teachers pay is $53,984. So how much are our teachers really making? Here are the actual numbers by employee:
2020 teachers salaries

Looking at the chart, it looks like the average teachers salary and longevity pay is about $51,000/yr. ($2,142,155 divided by 42 teachers listed).
However, if you also include the cost of benefits, it adds an average of over $23,000 benefits compensation. If we do the math and add these two items, the average teachers pay including benefits is over $74,000 per year.

Another misleading statement recently made by School Board member Tracey Kolb was that we have one of the lowest starting pays for teachers in the state. I have no data to confirm that, but what she didn't say was that 3 out of the last 5 teachers began their employment at much higher pay than our starting pay. At the discretion of the administration, the starting pay can be adjusted based on level of experience.

Conclusion and opinion: We all want our teachers to be fairly compensated. In all my blog posts, I try to provide verifiable facts to help you make your decision regarding your level of support. Here are my feelings on the next Teachers contract that will be negotiated and presented for a vote in March 2020:

1: Given all the additional compensation included in the contract, I cannot support more than continuing the current .5% increase in the charts used each year.
2: There needs to be a lower cost health insurance plan. Hopefully, an arrangement can be made to make this change as painless as possible to employees.
Unfortunately, we can no longer afford to provide these "cadillac" green and red plans. I propose using the "yellow plan".

3: If the "yellow" health insurance plan is used this may not be an issue, however if the "green or "red" health insurance plans are continued, there is a possibility of an "excise tax" on them. I will not vote for any contract language that will cause the taxpayer to bear a portion of the costs of this penalty. See my blog post at:   http://talkingwakefield.com/me-pay-your-penalty/

Because the negotiations are done behind closed doors, we can't know what was discussed until there is an agreement drafted. I expect the Union to advocate for its members and I have no issue with that. Unfortunately, the School Board members who are supposed to be representing us appear to be acting like additional Union reps. The last proposed contract is proof of that. To make matters worse, certain members of the School Board seem to be doubling down when challenged about recent questionable decisions.

What can we do? I plan to contact my School Board members and administrators and Budget Committee members by e-mail and tell them my level of support based on the issues above. I am hoping you will contact them with your feelings on this subject. If enough of us do this, they can't ignore it. It's important to consider doing your part. It's easy by email to have a voice now. We already know what happens when we don't stay involved. If they listen to us, they can count on our support at the polls next March. Here are their e-mail addresses. Just copy and paste into the "To" part of your email program.

Jerry Gregoire <jerry.gregoire@sau101.org>; Bob Ouellette <bob.ouellette@sau101.org>; Tracey Kolb <tracey.kolb@sau101.org>; Jennifer McCawley <jennifer.mccawley@sau101.org>; Sandy Johnson <sandy.johnson@sau101.org>; Marie D'Agostino <marie.dagostino@sau101.org>; Relf Fogg <indafogg@yahoo.com>

Don't forget the awesome power of the Budget Committee. We should let them know our feelings too.
Their general email address is:    budgetcommittee (at) wakefieldnh.com   I have found this unreliable at times.
If you would like their personal email addresses, email me at:    talkingwakefield (at) gmail.com    and I will provide them to you.
If you want to fact check me and read the contracts, here they are. Feel free to post your comments anonymously.
note:(to combat spam, comments come to me for approval, so there is a delay of a few hours before you will see them. It does not tell me who you are.) 

Current Teacher contract agreement (continuing 2019-2020 since the proposed one did not pass in March 2019):
2017-19 Teacher Agreement

Proposed 2019-2022 Teacher agreement that did not pass.
2019-22 Amended Teacher CBA

2 Comments

  1. Anonymous said:

    Thank you Jim, I appreciate you dropping some knowledge on us. It can be difficult to navigate through the layers of small town government. Glad we have someone like you to advocate and keep us informed of what’s going on behind the scenes in our little big town. Keep up the good work and continue giving the people a voice!

    August 5, 2019
    Reply
  2. Anonymous said:

    Other statements made by the Union and certain Board members seem to promote the idea that our teachers are below the state average. According to the Union, the state average teachers pay is $53,984. So how much are our teachers really making? Here are the actual numbers by employee:
    2020 teachers salaries link is inaccurate. Probably just an oversight on someone’s part. There are no grade levels with 4 teachers. Looks like grade 6 has 4 listed. One of the grade 4 salaries is inaccurate also.

    January 28, 2020
    Reply

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