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May 3, 2012

Teachers need to think outside the “box”

Joan Marie Aquilino

In response to a letter to the editor recently that listed what two teachers in Frederick claim to do each day, yet are living in Montgomery – and I think – Washington County ... it’s their choice to live and teach where they do; so much of what they listed was lost on me.


It’s their job, so their point fell short.


I respect and appreciate many teachers and have shown that appreciation in many ways. Teaching may very well be a tough career choice, but it is a choice never the less.


I'm sorry, but there isn't enough money for what they want. They don’t seem to remember when those dollars were there and they were all rewarded very nicely with hefty COLA’s (cost of living adjustments) and their step increases while others still went without.


The battle cry now being used by members of the Frederick County Teacher’s Association is counterproductive. It is coming across as if they are better than anyone else in the working world and deserve to be duly rewarded for their choices. Our economy tanked for everyone, not just teachers.


Considering that the medium wage in Frederick County is somewhere in the range of $65,000, they aren’t doing too darn bad. Keep in mind that we are talking that median wage for a 12 month (approx. 260 days of work) job, not a 10 month one (180-185 days of contracted work days). When you break it down to actual work days, most are making well above the median salary of this county. When those facts are brought up in a civil and rational conversation, it immediately hits a nerve and our children are brought in to bolster the union’s arguments.


Don’t fool yourself into thinking these young people coming out of college with teaching degrees and don’t know what they are looking at. They are given – and if not, can easily obtain – information showing exactly what is to come and what is expected. What they don’t know is how powerful and persistent the union will become in their lives and in their paychecks. That part is a surprising costly financial slap in the face once hired.


I’ve repeated this story often but will do so again because it points out very clearly the arrogance so many in the teachers union appear to process.


At a budget hearing several years ago when teachers were actually getting COLA’s as well as step increases, a young first-year kindergarten teacher stood up to speak giving her reasons why she needed more money. Her claim to fame was that she is a teacher, taking care of our children, and she needed more money to not only buy a home but to buy it within her school district on her own.


Exactly how many of you left college and immediately assumed you should make enough to forgo renting, roommates, etc., and go straight to buying your own real-estate? Her words echo’s in my mind every single year because it sets the tone for the “give-me-because-I’m-special” tone.


I could be wrong, but even the union leaders were taken back by her out loud words (Yes, I was there and I saw the looks on their faces. It spoke volumes.) because this young woman said what the true attitude is about salaries but shouldn’t be spoken.


The union and some few teachers hold our children hostage by using them to leverage their arguments for pay increases. Instead of wasting the dues paid to unions on an “oh-woe-is-me, pay-me-more” campaign, why not go about the whole thing in a different direction.


Because of what the teachers union has done (work to rule) and how they presented it, it's hard to get past 7.5 hours per day for approximately four days a week (minus out the planning time given to prepare for teaching, 90 minutes a day times five 5 days = 7.5 hours = 1 full day every week for preparing to do their jobs) and 10 months or 180 days of work/teaching a year, plus phenomenal benefits (never mentioned by the union). So, when the average non-teacher Joe looks at that, it looks pretty darn good. Yes, there are counter points but ... perception is our reality and that's how it's coming across right now.


Approximately 87% of the school system operating budget goes to salaries. You are teachers and noted for thinking outside the 'box.'


Figure out ways to get one-time money outside the Maintenance of Effort (if it’s available).


Figure out how to give to those most worthy and deserving teachers first.


Figure out how you have $12,500-plus dollars to teach each and every child in Frederick County Public Schools system and why you can't find a raise in that amount of money.


Figure out how you allowed the Board of Education to take operating money to pay for a building, and now you're out that money each and every year for years to come.


Good Luck, and do it yourselves outside your union. Stop listening to what is being 'told' to you and find out firsthand what is happening to all that money.


Take a breath! Sit back for a moment and figure out how the money that is requested can best serve employees for now and worry about what isn't there or might be coming in a different way.


What about those hired who have not seen a raise in three years. Take them into consideration. What about those who go well beyond expectations being rewarded for their efforts, thus setting the bar higher for others to reach?


Instead of slamming taxpayers every step of the way, why not consider and show them the same respect and appreciation you are now demanding. Bring in two members of the Board of Education, the superintendent, three teachers, not in the union, from different levels, four taxpayers with and without children in the system, not PTA or union representatives, and see if you can find the money so sorely wanted.


Teachers are not the bad guys, but neither are the taxpayers of this county. Our children shouldn’t be held hostage. If we could all remember, maybe a solution could be found. Bring fresh faces and voices to the table. Give it some fresh perspective.


. . . . .'til next time . . .



As always, I’d love to hear from you; so, let me know what’s on your mind by emailing, or contacting me directly


“Just Joan” saying, be safe and “don’t believe everything you think.”



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