A few weeks back I had the unique opportunity of attending a school board meeting for a standing room only night.
Truthfully, the opportunity was not so ‘unique’ as it is open to the public and hosted on a monthly basis. It’s my job to be there and report on its findings. The standing room only, on this particular night, was due to a large teacher attendance. They were present to address the board during the Public Comment portion in relation to their current salary negotiations.
As the title of this column space indicates ... I’m a mom, with two children currently attending Oakdale schools. Second to that I’m a journalist, remaining impartial in this setting is a challenge, yet it’s my job.
The beauty of a ‘column’ versus a ‘story’ written by a reporter is the ability to share what we think and feel on a particular topic in the ‘column’ format.
That night, I was privy to watching 18 plus teachers approach the podium and speak with emotion and passion. Their feelings driven by their love for their job and their students, not by money. That was more than evident and as a parent my heart ached for them and I felt grateful.
Many of them offered very valid and solid points. The one which most caught my attention was learning that our teachers rank 17 out of 24 in the way of pay in Stanislaus County.
Again, as a parent I tout and brag (yes brag) about our schools on a very regular basis. I happen to be a ‘believer’ in the way in which our children are being guided and taught. Is it fool proof? No. Perfect? Of course not. But, for a public education system our students excel scholastically as well as athletically. So in my opinion they are balanced.
Now, do I feel there are teachers who need to retire? Of course, but that goes for any profession. There are journalists, bankers, police officers, even pharmacy employees who we experience and know their time has come. This however, is not about that. The whole pie should not be jeopardized because one piece tastes a bit sour.
I’m a firm believer in quality over quantity, in both things and people. So upon hearing the ranking my initial concern was we are not paying our quality teachers and this may affect our quantity.
Before reading too far into my words and taking a fight or flight approach, I must be clear, I have no inside information as to how negotiations may go. As a parent I hope it goes in favor of the teacher. I hope our Board recognizes it is time to bring them into the Top 10 where they belong. They must see their value in the way of income. Seeing it through the eyes and achievements of their students is the reward, but just like the rest of us, it does not pay the increased water bill or car insurance rate.
For the person who believes teachers are already ‘over paid,’ because they get summers off, think again. Just as with most salaried professions, these individuals are never truly ‘off.’ Many spend their summers attending classes or brainstorming for the coming school year. Even more spend their evenings and weekends preparing for the coming days or weeks. Translation, they work a lot of hours.
Personally, I once had the good fortune to stay home with my kids as a ‘full time’ mom. I made it a year and a half with my oldest and six months when they became two. I love my kids, but I never again complained about writing a day care check and I gained immediate appreciation for teachers (many of whom are my friends). They have 20+ on a daily basis, from varying different parenting styles and they must teach them. Yeah, no thank you. That’s plain craziness and I only tried it with two.
Most will tell you it was their desire since childhood or a calling they felt the need to pursue. I have yet to meet an educator who says they did it for the money.
So what’s the point of all of this?
My hope is that as readers, parents, property owners and community members there is acknowledgement. This may come in any way, shape or form. Shooting an e-mail in support or speaking it in their presence. Several years back this same group of people stood together and voluntarily agreed to take less. They banded together and said okay to decreased pay to save one another, for our kids. It’s time to repay them and bring them current, in this mom’s opinion.
As parents we don’t hold that pen. We don’t possess the power to sign that document. We do however possess the ability to make sure they know, we support them. Our children deserve as much.
Teresa Hammond is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 847-3021.