Teacher Appreciation in JCPS
Next week, while Louisvillians celebrate Derby Week, the rest of the nation will be celebrating Teacher Appreciation Week. Students will bring goodies to their teachers. Parents will send thank you notes to their children's educators. And all across the nation, school administrators will act to let teachers know they are appreciated.
But not in JCPS.
During Teacher Appreciation Week, what is JCPS communicating to its teachers? It is telling them they are overpaid and don't deserve a raise or to even to have their year's efforts on behalf of their student recognized as any service at all on the salary schedule.
And all of this is based on a study the district administration assured teachers and repeatedly reassured teachers would not be about their salaries, but rather, the salaries of the central office administrators identified as overstaffed and overpaid by state Auditor Adam Edelen. But the district administration simply was not good to its word. The district's public report specifically addressed teacher compensation and the report was cited as the basis for a recommended freeze of not only teacher pay but even steps on the salary schedule. All of this is a counterproductive distraction from the stated purpose of the audit - overblown central office administrative costs.
Not only is focusing on teacher salaries a distraction, it is based questionable evidence. Although the salary review asserts that JCPS compensation is the highest among the comparison districts in the review, one has to wonder how these districts were selected. When compared to other districts closest to our size in the Council of Great City Schools (see the attached press release sent out by JCTA on April 27, 2016), the JCPS salary schedule starts higher than some and lower than others. It finishes higher than some and lower than others. And it has more steps than some (taking longer to reach top salaries) and fewer than others.
The bottom line is, this salary review was supposed to be about central office bloat, not about the pay of those touching the lives of students every day, and JCTA calls upon Superintendent Hargens to focus her attention where it should be. To be clear, all those who work in school buildings and those who directly touch the lives of students deserve what they are paid, they deserve their step increases, and they deserve to be a budget priority when comes to salaries. This goes for teachers. It goes for librarians. It goes for bus drivers. It goes for the support staff in our schools. And it goes for principals, assistant principals, and counselors, too. Dr. Hargens needs to be supporting these individuals, not looking to them to make up for holes in the budget caused by the bloated central office state Auditor Edelen's report identified.
To add insult to injury, at the same meeting the district proposed freezing teacher salaries and refusing to recognize the service teachers provide during each year, the district administration also proposed removing suspension as an option in the Code of Conduct for a number of offenses that JCTA members believe would undermine a safe and orderly learning environment in their schools and their classrooms, and the district made this recommendation without proposing any alternative strategy to deal with these offenses.
It is worth noting that these proposals were developed during meetings of the Code of Conduct Committee to which JCTA representatives were not invited. When our representatives later tried to question these proposed changes, they were not allowed to do so.
So..... Happy Teacher Appreciation Week, JCPS teachers, are you feeling the love??? It's as if the superintendent and her staff are saying, "We appreciate you-here, have less support with student behavior and less compensation as you try to deal with your student behavior problems on your own."
Regardless of the attitude of the JCPS administration toward its teachers, next week is Teacher Appreciation Week, and we at JCTA want all our members to know we appreciate the hard work teachers are doing in this district. We recognize that every year teachers all across the district are doing more with less. More engaging lessons that require materials purchased out of pocket because there is less classroom money to go around. More time spent planning for and preparing those lessons because there is less planning time as it is often taken for meetings, conferences, and embedded PD. More time spent at school trying to figure out how to reach those harder to reach students even though it means less time at home with families.
Appreciation week occurs once each year, but teachers need appreciation ALL the time. And what makes teachers feel appreciated? Being given the time needed to do their jobs, being recognized as the professionals who most closely work with students, and having their efforts and sacrifices acknowledged throughout the year.
What does NOT make teachers feel appreciated is having their contractual rights abandoned because it doesn't suit the district's game, being publicly labeled as the cause of the money concerns with the district, being expected to accept a pay freeze not so that the district can make ends meet, but so that the district can increase its slush funds. THAT is NOT what teacher appreciation is all about.