100 less students = 5 less teachers

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100 less students = 5 less teachers

Postby Dennis King » Mon Nov 16, 2009 11:16 am

I do not buy the argument from the SB that we might not be able to get rid of any teachers even though as in each of the past several years, enrollment is down (lucky they got that school past just in time for the numbers to drop!)

Now if we are willing to have higher teacher-student ratios (say 3-4 more kids in each class), we should be able to eliminate 7 teachers for a total of 12 teachers. Given their salaries and benefits, that should get us close to a million in savings, possible even more. Think about it, look at all the foreclosures in town, we need to make tough choices! Everyone of us in the real world has to work harder, do more with less, and all the while, we are told how lucky we are to even have a job. The teachers need to enter the world of us taxpayers. Gone should be the day when you get a 21 percent raise in 3 years and no one bats an eye.
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Re: 100 less students = 5 less teachers

Postby andysinnh » Mon Nov 16, 2009 1:28 pm

Dennis King wrote:The teachers need to enter the world of us taxpayers. Gone should be the day when you get a 21 percent raise in 3 years and no one bats an eye.

Hmm- those days are gone already, sir.
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Re: 100 less students = 5 less teachers

Postby Ken Coleman » Mon Nov 16, 2009 1:35 pm

As corrected and posted earlier, it was over 4 years not three! (But what the heck, isnt it fun to make up worse numbers). This was also becuase at this time (many years ago) we were losing a lot of teachers and unable to hire becuase our salaries were so low! The town in 2 votes (This contract was voted on in 2 year periods) voted by a Huge amount to pass these as the contracts enjoyed broad support.

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Re: 100 less students = 5 less teachers

Postby andysinnh » Mon Nov 16, 2009 1:37 pm

ON your other thoughts about teacher reductions - how about we wait to see what the budget proposal is from the Administration before we start putting cut thoughts down? You've taken a sound bite from an SB member and pushed it to a conclusion. Let's see what they come up with and then discuss proposals. And BTW, if you look back at Shannon's post earlier, a reduction in student population - or even a decision to increase ratios - does not automatically equate to a drop in the # of teachers you outlined since there are many schools and many grade levels, and many subjects (at higher grades) that don't smoothly allow your peanut-butter cut. You can't cut with a machete - rather you must be careful about how you cut, should that be the direction chosen. I'm not saying there won't be cuts proposed - but likely not to the level nor methodology you propose.

Watch things in December to see what transpires.

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Re: 100 less students = 5 less teachers

Postby Ken Coleman » Mon Nov 16, 2009 1:42 pm

Also if you look at the last 7 years, teaching staff has been reduced each year.

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Re: 100 less students = 5 less teachers

Postby andysinnh » Mon Nov 16, 2009 1:57 pm

Ken Coleman wrote:Also if you look at the last 7 years, teaching staff has been reduced each year.

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Agreed - and I'm expecting something similar this year, although I haven't seen specifics. It's not as if the SB and administration don't get the issue of population, budget and teaching staff - their actions have shown they do "get it" over the past few years. So let's wait to see what comes out this year and see where we are as we start the budget discussions.

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Re: 100 less students = 5 less teachers

Postby Dennis King » Mon Nov 16, 2009 4:49 pm

Ken, the teachers were without a contract for the first year so they were paid the same as the previous year and THEN they got a 21 percent raise over 3 years. Sorry, but the rest of us in there real world have had many years without any raise, yup, they are usually years with lay offs so you now have more work and have to do it for the same pay.

Noting the declining teachers each year is significant but why does the cost keep going up! Where are the Honeywell savings? Why can't this SB cut the budget by 2 mil?

We have put a lot of pressure on the town but the school often gets a free ride. Andy and Ken may want to hide away from the 21 percent raise in 3 years but it did in fact happen! The worse part is the town approved it as they did the new school with the coaching of the SB that we would "loose" good teachers and we needed the space for the kids, hence 18 mil for a new school that over the past several years, should now be obvious to everyone, we did not need!

Since 2/3 of the taxes comes from our schools, we really should pay more attention to it. I hope this SB will have the courage to eliminate a dozen teachers, one from each grade. Now that can not be as hard as it sounds since we already have 100 less students so that should be 5, the other 7 can be divided amongst the remaining teachers in higher class sizes. Oh, while we are at it, less reduce each school but at least one guidance counselor and one less custodian. Assistant principals should also be looked at.

People are losing everything, time to change from wants to needs. If I had my way, we would invite the nuns to run our schools, they would do it for 1/4 the price and without state retirement requirements. Of course, the extras would go, class sizes would be larger, and of course the biggest difference, grades would excel and we would no longer be in "need of improvement".
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Re: 100 less students = 5 less teachers

Postby townielifer » Mon Nov 16, 2009 5:44 pm

Dennis King said:

People are losing everything, time to change from wants to needs. If I had my way, we would invite the nuns to run our schools, they would do it for 1/4 the price and without state retirement requirements. Of course, the extras would go, class sizes would be larger, and of course the biggest difference, grades would excel and we would no longer be in "need of improvement".


Sure Dennis... The first time little Johnny decides to act up in class and that nun smacks him with a ruler, she WILL be out of a job. Where does that leave us? Granted I think discipline in the school leaves much to be desired, but seriously nuns? Having had a few nuns during my school days, I can certainly say that I was less than impressed with them as teachers, but amazed at their discipline skills.

Also, how does extra students in each classroom translate to no longer being a "district in need of improvement"? Between absent parents and discipline issues in the classroom, more students in each classroom is certainly NOT going to improve the situation. I would agree with your thought if parents would step up to the plate more and not expect the schools to raise their children, but don't see that happening anytime soon.

I fully agree that spending needs to be kept under control, but I don't agree that extra students in the classroom is the solution to the problem.
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Re: 100 less students = 5 less teachers

Postby Ken Coleman » Mon Nov 16, 2009 6:03 pm

No It was a 4 year contract with rasies slighly just undert 5% a year (you have to compound to get to 21%. The failed contract was in the early 90's. The four year contract you keep bring up occurred during the late 90's (1998 to 2002 is my menory serves me correct)

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Re: 100 less students = 5 less teachers

Postby Tom Mahon » Tue Nov 17, 2009 9:44 am

Since we are talking history here, long term residents may recall that in 1983 (Ach! Another recession year that had high inflation (9%) and higher interest rates (a home mortgage rate of 8.5% was considered great), the school district meeting approved a contract that was 31%(or 37%, I can't recall and can't research it right now), 0,0,0,0 for exactly the same reasons Ken mentioned in his earlier post.

If you want to bring back the nuns, you have a constitutional issue here ( you know, a little separation of church and state consideration) as well as a grave robbing issue because that's what you'd have to do to get a sufficient number to staff the schools. Vocations aren't what they used to be on that side of that house either.

Finally, while larger class sizes are always an option we all seem to harken back to the days when we were in school. I attended parochial schools and a Catholic mens (Damn few of those around today, too) college and did not have a class size smaller that 40 until my sophomore year in college. However, there was also no main streaming or special education (they were called "slow learners" in those days) which did not come in until the early 70's. If you have ever been in a public school classroom today, the dynamic is much different.

I appreciate Andy's sage counsel to see what is proposed before jumping to mis-statement, preconceived conclusions and self-serving ten finger exercises on the keyboard.
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Re: 100 less students = 5 less teachers

Postby spnorm » Tue Nov 17, 2009 10:16 am

A lot of talk about the 21% over 3 or 4 years, and how those of us in the "real world" don't get that. Around the same time that this was going on, I was working for a company (in the real world) that was having issues with high turnover and losing good employees. They did some research and found that they had not stayed competitive and were our of synch with current salary structures. Over a couple of years, they implemented some high percentage salary increases. While the sudden jumps in pay were nice, when averaged over a few recent years, they basically adjusted for being previously underpaid and brought everyone up to where they really should have been anyway. More good employees stayed, and we were able to attract better candidates. I see that as equivalent to what was done with the teacher's salaries back then. I think a lot of other folks understood that as well, which is why those contracts were well supported. So while I doubt you will see a lot of that right now, and no one is proposing that for the schools right now either, it does happen in the real world. Maybe it is more likely to happen with school salaries since every so many years there is an overreaction to tax increases, and teaching salaries get targeted and fall behind once again. We should focus on what is fair to both taxpayers and teachers right now, rather that penalizing today's teachers because you've got your knickers in a twist over past history.
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Re: 100 less students = 5 less teachers

Postby Dennis King » Tue Nov 17, 2009 11:29 am

spnorm wrote:A lot of talk about the 21% over 3 or 4 years, and how those of us in the "real world" don't get that. Around the same time that this was going on, I was working for a company (in the real world) that was having issues with high turnover and losing good employees. They did some research and found that they had not stayed competitive and were our of synch with current salary structures. Over a couple of years, they implemented some high percentage salary increases. .


Spnorm, this is clearly the exception to the rule and applies only in a field where demand out paces supply. This occurred in the eighties with the high tech bubble. Big demand for programmers and such but by the nineties, these same people were asking, "You want fries with that!"

I know people like our teachers but we must realize that these retirement benefits, the jobs for life and even our pay raises are all far beyond the average taxpayer paying for their salaries. Here are some facts :

According to the NH Dept of Ed stats for 2008-2009, the average teacher salaries was $50,128 among the 15,590 teachers in the state. The NH Dept or labor lists the state's average wage for that same period as $43,576 so my point of teachers making more than the taxpayers is clear. It should also be noted teachers work 180+ days per year (180-186 range) and six hour work days. They have the option of getting paid on a 10 month calendar instead of the 12 month we all work as many have summer jobs. Of course the extra income is not factored but if you base the wage on 10 months (and ignore all those lovely days off), you get a wage of $60,153.60. Of course we could go hourly and you get an hourly wage of $46,41 per hour. Now if you annualize that, it comes to the equivalent of $96,542.81 per year. Any of you hard working taxpayers out there making nearly 100K? Not likely, maybe some of our board members but that would explain why they are so out of touch and why they casually approve these salary increases.

Now as to class size, this is truly amazing, here are the stats from the NH Dept of Education as of 10/1/2008:
Merrimack had 4,206 students with 317.5 teachers (not sure where they come up with a .5 teacher!) for a teacher to student ratio of 13.2

Did I read that right?. I thought we were all worried about 40 kids in a class, 13.2, wow, now that is an eye opener!

Unfortunately, this is not unique to Merrimack, Nashua is 13.7, Milford 14, Litchfield 14.3 and New Boston 15.1

Merrimack must lead the way on getting sanity into the teaching process. I do not understand all the whinning about class sizes, either we have a lot of teachers not teaching or the class sizes are way too small. We now have 100 less students so that brings our teacher to student ratio at 12.9

Wow, 12.9

At that level, you gotta be hearing the crickets in the class. When I went to school and looked around, I saw over 30 students in the elementary level, 35 in middle school and over 40 in high school.

12.9 across all grades, you gotta be kidding me! Something is wrong here, it appears we have way too many teachers.

Let's look to an average of 20 in a class (5 rows of kids with 4 in each row). A student to teacher ratio would reduce the number of teachers to 205.3. Now subtract that from the 317.5 teachers we now have and you get to give pink slips to 112.2 teachers.

Now that would save us hard working taxpayers a total of $5,624,361.60
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Re: 100 less students = 5 less teachers

Postby spnorm » Tue Nov 17, 2009 12:21 pm

This was not isolated to a specific field. HR just hadn't done their job keeping salaries in general competitive. Yes, shame on them, but it happens and the point is, any employer has to stay competitive, or make adjustment to get competitive - school systems included.

I won't get into a lengthy debate about teachers' hours, but having know a few over the years, I can tell you most put in an awful lot of late night and weekend hours in class preparation, grading, etc., so being physically present at the school for six hours or so is only part of the story. Summer jobs are completely irrelavent, since here in America you are allowed to work as hard as you want to make as much as you can. If I take a part-time job, I don't expect my primary employer to reduce my salary because of it.

As for the ratios, I don't see enough information to know whether part-time staff, floating classroom assistants, paras, etc. are included in those numbers. The fact is, those numbers show we are not out of whack with other towns. I would like to see more detail on that.

Finally, lest this come across as "we love teachers, give them anything they want", I am a taxpayer looking to save money wherever possible too. The school budget and contracts should be a source of lively debate. I just don't think the teacher salaries should be seen as an easy target. I agree the retirement program is way out of line compared with most industries yet, sadly, it appears almost untouchable.
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Re: 100 less students = 5 less teachers

Postby andysinnh » Tue Nov 17, 2009 1:03 pm

I poked my head into the forum today during a meeting break at lunchtime, and saw Dennis' note. After I gave myself the Heimlich maneuver to stop the choking of a piece of food that went down the wrong pipe, I sat for quite a while to see just how I'd respond to what Dennis had to say. In the meantime, spnorm came in and added some sanity to the thread, so it helped keep me more grounded. Instead of debating Dennis' points line by line (which I would surely do if I had the time or inclination), I thought I'd put a few summary points down. But before I do that, I want to preface my remarks by saying that I do not defend the budget for the schools at all costs, and as a member of the bud comm help to look for ways that will trim expenses while providing the level of education that parents (aka taxpayers) and the adminstration professionals (who treat this as a professional field and don't speculate like some here do) feel is required. If that ends up meaning cutting positions or programs or anything - we do what we have to do. And that's just what's going to happen starting in the budget process in December.

But my thoughts are as follows:

1. Comparative salaries between teachers and what the NH Dept of Labor says is the average NH resident's salary can only be valid if you compare salaries of those positions which require a college degree. Remember that for the vast majority (90th percentile or higher) of positions required by ANY town for a teacher require at least a Bachelor's degree, if not a Masters or beyond. If you compared salaries of those in NH with that sort of degree, you'd have a much more accurate comparison. And I'm willing to bet that you'd find a teacher's pay would come out signfiicantly less than a person in industry with the same degree.

2. The continual comparison about 'hours worked' between a teacher vs an industry professional is getting old, and certainly not done with knowledge of the job. AS I've said before, having now lived with a teacher, as well as looking at what teachers really do, the number of hours they work is significantly more than the "typical school day" that Dennis and others keep throwing out here. Do some research and come back with the proof that supports your point, and I'll be more likely to listen

3. I won't go into the "summers off" and "lovely days off", except to challenge Dennis that, if he does the comparison I listed in item 1 above, that the salary differential would still show that teachers are paid less than similarly educated counterparts in industry.

4. Class ratios. This one actually made me laugh. Dennis actually proved he doesn't realize exactly how ratios are calculated when he quoted the other districts. Ratios at the district level are calculated based across all functions across all grades K-12. They include SPED teachers who have ratios that might be 2:1 in some cases, and also include large-group teachers that may have a 100:1 ratio. Only within a finite group of clasroom teachers in (perhaps) the elementary school could you do a 1:1 mapping of a 4x5 classroom desk setup the way Dennis has outlined. I'd agree with his point if every kid sat all day in a 4x5 row classroom across the district. But that's not teaching, and frankly wasn't the way teaching was done even when Dennis went to school, walking uphill both ways in bare feet in the snow. I'd love to see the ratios from back in the 60's or 70's or 80's and compare to today. I'm betting they're pretty close.

5. If we did cut the 112 teachers and saved many million dollars, I'd bet Dennis would be the first to complain that the school system was not pumping out aspiring actors and actresses or even cinematographers to work with him in his endeavors - because that's something that wouldn't see the light of day if any ratio-busting was done in the schools.

6. "Half a teacher?" - the question about why we have 317.5 teachers - part-time is a concept understood even in the real world outside of teaching.


I could go on and on, but I'll head back to work since it's now time for my next meeting, and challenge Dennis that - if he wants to throw statistics out there to support his point - that he research them and make sure he's doing a valid comparison and really comparing apples to apples. Because, with what's posted thus far, it's nothing that can be supportable in a serious spending debate. And trust me, we'll be seriously debating this stuff in meetings over the coming months - very serious debate.

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Re: 100 less students = 5 less teachers

Postby Jeannine Stergios » Tue Nov 17, 2009 1:49 pm

andysinnh


I'd love to see the ratios from back in the 60's or 70's or 80's and compare to today. I'm betting they're pretty close.


I think you're wrong about this one. Anyone who attended Merrimack schools during that time will tell you that 25-30 students per classroom was the norm. Go back and look at class photos and see what I mean.
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