- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
Superintendent Michael Martirano’s budget makes important investments in our schools and students, and should be supported by our county commissioners and St. Mary’s County. Unfortunately, many of our commissioners have taken issue with his budget and made suggestions and decisions that are just not right for St. Mary’s County’s students.
For example, the commissioners decided to put off — for a second time — funding a building for Fairlead Academy, which is for students who are at risk of dropping out. It provides smaller class size, tutoring and alternative experiences all designed to help kids be successful and keep them in school. Data shows that this program is successful. It is disappointing that the commissioners decided not to support these at-risk students who are in desperate need of quality services and interventions.
Next is the issue of paying bonuses. Let’s be clear that no bonuses have been paid. In 2011, 51 positions were cut; 30 of these positions were administrative. The work of those 30 people was all absorbed by their remaining colleagues and added significant hours of labor to their already extended work weeks. For two years they did this without one dollar of additional compensation. Last summer a few were given new titles to merge the various hats they had been wearing, and received an accompanying $3,000 salary increase. Anyone in the private sector with similar levels of responsibility, performance expectations, and advanced degrees would be compensated at a much higher rate.
I have worked in three other school districts in my career and the administrative staff at Moakley Street has been far superior to anything I’ve ever experienced before. We should not begrudge these dedicated folks the small increase they received for the significant extra hours that they are contributing to ensure continued excellence in our school system.
It really concerns me that Commissioner Todd Morgan (R) thinks teachers should tighten their belts. Teachers are buying paper because there is no money to supply enough for their students. They are spending hundreds of dollars out of their own pockets every year in order to supply their classrooms because there has never been adequate money in the budget.
Good teachers are leaving St. Mary’s County because they simply cannot afford to live here or quitting teaching for higher-paying jobs. Our friends and colleagues who have left teaching to go work at Patuxent River Naval Air Station will still bring home more money than they made teaching even if sequester cuts are put into place.
Every teacher seeking employment compares the public salary scales and step progression when deciding where to apply. Upon their hiring, they sign a legal contract that includes the published salary schedule and step progression upon which they based these serious life decisions. This step progression is promised to them and not subject to annual negotiation; the nature of the contact is that these are to be paid regardless of whether a raise or cost-of-living adjustment is negotiated or not.
In recent years our local government has funded neither the step increases nor the COLA, regardless of the sizable wealth of this county. During these same years our teachers have delivered to our children the very best educational experience in the state of Maryland.
We are asking for this county to stand up for its schools, students and educators by attempting to catch up on its commitments to our educators so that we can recruit and retain the outstanding educators that our children deserve. No teacher ever expected to get rich, but they do deserve respect and the honoring of the promises that were made to them.
The county has the resources to afford these investments without raising taxes or depleting its huge fund balance. Individuals can’t neglect to pay their mortgage while they sit on a huge savings account, but that’s what this county has been doing. Our schools make our county great, and we need to continue to invest in both.
Anna Laughlin, Lusby
The writer is president of the Education Association of St. Mary’s County.