Four years for trouble to brew

I got this email a couple days ago. I have confidence in the integrity of the person who sent it and I take it at face value. I’m not inclined to check out the numbers. They seem to make sense to me. My thoughts follow the email:

hi Harry,
    Impressive melting witch. 

I think I saw this [web] address in the Minneapolis Tribune last year.  It is    extra.twincities.com/car/schoolsalaries.  Number one  select year, check all employees, check outside metro,  check public then click “go”.  Number 2 select district, select school if desired click “search”. Jana’s  article on Duluth teacher’s salaries stated that very few teachers get to the high pay of $69,000.00.  A tally that I ran, not saying it is totally accurate 403 of the Duluth teachers in the year 2012-2013 school year earned 60 thousand to 67,216.00.  That is an average of 65,248.48 for those 403 teachers.  The total for these 403 teachers was 26,295,136.00.  Again a quick check may not be totally accurate. 

    Then 133 teachers, some part time earned from 35,000 to 55,000 for the year 2012-2013. The total for them was 6,065,00.00.  The average was 45,601.50.  I remember a large number of teachers retired last spring so this could have eliminated some top salaries.  The 2013-2014 stats won’t be added to this web site until after June when the school year ends.  It also gives salaries for principals , councilors etc.  I found it interesting. 

Other than vote against the contract next week and speak against it there is little I can do short of throwing an unproductive hissy fit. I don’t believe our teachers are overpaid. Neither to I believe that they are underpaid. What I know is that keeping this contract will make it almost impossible to lower class sizes in the time I serve on the School Board. That was my reason for running for the Board so in some ways a hissy fit seems justified.

I will do everything I can to lower class sizes. One possibility would be to renegotiate our bonds. Note that Gary Glass and later Art Johnston suggested this but were told by the Finance Director that it wouldn’t be possible to lower our payments. I don’t know that I believe the Finance Director but if he’s right its one more reason to vote against the contract. I have my eyes on a couple of programs that, should we shut them down, could allow us to direct a half a dozen teachers into the classroom. Some of these programs are pets but as we begin to face laying off the measley 14 or so teachers who will be paid for by last year’s levy it may not prove to be that difficult a decision.

What does this contract mean?

Our classes will remain the most crowded in Minnesota.

We will not resume a zero or seventh hour which will in turn limit our course offerings.

Among the limitations will be the continued sparse music opportunities which are a shadow of what the district once offered and one of the opportunities that kept iffy kids in school.

I could go on and write about some other grievous problems facing our district as a result of laying off teachers. I know this kind of talk flies in the face of what I consider happy talk by our administration. Call me Winston Churchill and call our Administration Neville Chamberlain delivering “Peace in our Time” upon his return from Adolph’s Germany.

I have been whining about my health for the past couple weeks. That’s over with. I’m writing this with a great deal of equanimity. I’ve had a number of folks, including my wife, remind me of what I already knew. I can’t fix the Duluth School District by myself and its clear that I am part of a minority on the Board that doesn’t buy into happy talk. After getting a good health check up and thinking about my modest powers to influence the future I’m no longer feeling panic and waking up after mere hours of sleep. I’ll be much healthier than our schools and I’ll just have to live with that.

I serve with folks who care about our schools, I can’t fault them for that, but we are in for a long slog. WW II lasted four years. So will the teacher’s contract. Our war won’t end when the contract runs out. It will just be heating up.