March 26 06:44 AM
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Frustrated teacher sounds off

To the Editor:

I am an extremely frustrated teacher in Capac. I have seen people on both sides of the aisle. Those who are 'with us' and those who are 'against us.' "Us" includes teachers, the bus drivers and support staff. It has gone from a great working relationship between two parties to an "us" versus "them" contest: the union and the school board. I know the staff at Capac has pride in what they do. They do their jobs in preparing children for the future. We work with these young people for over five hours a day. That is an extensive amount of contact with kids 180 days a year.

Some may read this and totally disagree and that is their right. However, after reading the letters that bashed us, I had to write this. At the last board meeting one teacher rose and spoke to the board and the community with only facts. It was very informative and nothing was pointing fingers at any one person. It showed important information that the community should know about and to inform the school board of funding issues. Teachers are not a "whiny little child" like a school board member told the audience at the last meeting. I am a professional who works with future professionals. I believe the Capac community does care about the education and welfare of the children.

I have done my research and asked many questions to people outside the two groups concerning our situation. Along with not being paid what teachers in other St. Clair County districts are making, teachers have changed their benefits the last three contracts. They were even willing to modify the benefits for this contract to save the school district even more money but apparently that's not good enough.

If I wanted to worry about the money I earned, I would have never been a teacher. The cost for my master's degree was over $12,000. I didn't see a $12,000 raise after I took those classes. And I am still required by the state to take more classes for the remainder of my career. Please note as well that the vast majority of teachers at Capac have attained their master's degrees. In what other profession do the majority of employees working have a master's degree?

I do not know the details of the contract negotiations. That is supposed to be confidential even though I have community members telling me details of the contract that board members are telling people. One of the rumors that people are telling me is that the teachers want better benefits. According to the union that is not the overall case. The union has made an attempt at negotiating on benefits and saving the school district money. If some of it is a give and take then what is the big deal if they want something to be better and are willing to take less somewhere else? It still saves money. I am also sure that our unions want a pay raise. It does cost money to take college classes and the cost of living has increased. I know that someday I would like to retire. I spend a lot of money on my classroom, students, and in the community that comes out of my pocket. But I do not complain.

The information released in the two letters last week was misleading. "Striking, sickouts, and work stoppages" have not been an issue, so why bring them up if they have not happened?

The school district took in an extra $200,000 last year that was not spent on education. The district has a fund surplus of roughly $4 million. Even if they spent over-budget by a half million dollars for the next six years they would still have money in the bank. Some say it is a rainy day fund. Well, there is a hurricane out there right now and schools are nonprofit entities.

I have read and understand that people have taken pay cuts or pay freezes and lost their jobs. For administrators who make more than $100,000 those pay freezes are not too tough to take. Our district has seen the loss of jobs. There were more teachers five years ago than there are today. There have been new teachers that have replaced retired teachers. I would consider this a pay cut based on what the district is spending on salaries. I also read last week that one board member said the state was going to decrease funding. That is no longer true. The federal government has stated that if states receive the stimulus package they cannot decrease funding per student. That stimulus package is giving Michigan around $2 billion just for education.

I have also read and heard from the school board about teachers. Mr. Warnez (in his letter) said that he isn't out of the loop and is very involved in the school district. I commend him and anyone else on that. I know that many people care about this community. But if each one of us needed to be commended in the newspaper for volunteering at school, numerous teachers would be given praise for hours. Teachers are known for giving their personal time to their students and other staff members at no cost. They do this job because of LOVE. I love working with these wonderful people.

I know that at the last school board meeting a few parents said that if the teachers do not get a contract then they were taking their kids somewhere else. I appreciate their support and I know that the other teachers do, too. But WE LOVE having your children in our classrooms. We want kids to come to Capac. If parents take their children out of Capac we will not have the opportunity to enjoy having them in our classroom. I love teaching kids in Capac, but I do not enjoy being a Capac teacher like I used to. We all Win When We Work Together. Let us work together!

I am not including my name for obvious reasons. I just cannot sit here and let people tell me what I am doing and not doing. Believe who you want to believe, but also understand that the teachers, bus drivers, and support staff want to work for a contract. Thank you for taking the time to read this.

Editor's note: Capac Schools Supt. Jerry Jennex said the district had a revenue surplus of $200,000 last year. The year before that figure was somewhere around $60,000, Jennex said, as opposed to the prior year's figure of $850,000 in expenditures over revenue.

Name withheld
March 11, 2009

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