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All of Mehlville's Teachers Deserve a "Merit" Pay Raise, in Spite of Tea Party School Board Members

As a father of three fifth-generation children in the district, and former school board member, I believe all of the classroom teachers deserve a merit pay raise.

Two things are well known about public schools which are mandated to accept and accomodate every child that walks through their doors, regardless of socio-economic status, disability, race, culture, dominate superstition, etcetera.

The first is that socio-economic status of the student is the number one determinate of success in the classroom. (For a perfect example in the Mehlville School District, compare Forder Elementary to Rogers Elementary.)

The second well known fact is that nothing (after socio-economic status) affects the additive and cummulative success (or failure) of a student than a highly effective teacher in the classroom.

So How Does Mehlville Fare Academically?

In a recent commnity-wide email from Superintendent Dr. Knost, he notified us that "Of the 559 public school districts and charter schools, only 26, or less than 5% appear to have outperformed the Mehlville School District."

Given what we know about public education, Mehlville's teachers must be paid really well, right?

Nope.

How Is That Possible?

When I was first elected to Mehlville's Board of Education, we were losing more than 70 classroom teachers a year to optional retirement and through "brain drain" (to other districts who pay their teachers more).

Not only did other school districts pay more, but Mehlville was second from the bottom in pay in the St. Louis Metropolitan area.  

The only district with lower pay than Mehlville was Bayless.

Mehlville residents regularly support building new buildings in our community, but buildings don't teach children, teachers teach children.

Mehlville teachers are still second from the bottom in pay

The Mehlville Board of Education at the time did not like the brain drain and decided that even if we could not catch the teachers up to the median, we could certainly re-prioritize our spending so that we can stop the brain drain and place Mehlville in a healthier position to hire and retain highly effective teachers.

We gave a series of raises to make teaching in Mehlville a more attractive alternative for qualified teachers in the community. One was a 6% across the board raise, and another was a tax transfer appoved by the community that allowed us to move money into operations and once again fund teacher salary increases, catch teachers up on lost salary step increases commiserate to experience, and push the entire pay schedule up by placing money on the base.

It worked. The much deserved pay increases, as well as a down economy, helped us retain our highly qualified classroom teachers. (In addition, we reversed the culture of fear and lack of trust between classroom teachers and the administration, but that is a story for another day and another time.)

The fruits of those types of efforts are never immediate. The results of hiring and retaining quality staff take a few years to materialize, which brings us back to Dr. Knost's email and Mehville's current academic succes.

We paid the price politically because of a local press in dire need of controversy to sell advertising, but as you can see with Mehlville's current academic performance, our efforts to hire and retain highly effective teachers are now paying off.

That said, much is changing for the worse internally. While the employed administration and classroom teachers are still working well together, the grumblings are that it's getting tentative.  

However, the fault is not with the administration.  Instead it lies with many of the current board of education, and they are who the administration anwers too.

Merit Pay

Low informed voters and mis-informed board members think public education should be like certain sectors of private industry, that we have a merit pay system. But as I mentioned above, because of what we know about public education (the number one determinate of a student's performance is their socio-economic status) there is no fair way to determine merit pay.

Again, refer to Forder Elementary to Rogers Elementary. Do you honestly think it's the quality of the teacher between those two schools in the Mehlville School District that makes such a difference in test scores?

The bottom line was articulated well by former Superintendent Terry Noble when he said, "Mehlville doesn't have bad teachers because we evaluate them out of the business." 

As a father of three fifth-generation children in the district, and former school board member, I believe all of the classroom teachers deserve a merit pay raise.

As Dr. Knost said, "With a low per pupil expenditure and a high performance rating, congratulations to our school district for being one of the top performers in the state of Missouri."

But this quality performance didn't happen in a vacuum. Since we know that the number one determinate of a student's success in the classroom (after socio-economic status) is a highly effective teacher, then it should go without saying that our efforts to retain our good teachers have paid off.

Time is Running Out

Unfortunately, over he last two years, that support from the board of paying teachers well and giving them their much deserved pay raises in the event of double-digit balances has waned with the minority-voter election of several advocates of the Tea Party Movement.

The economy, albeit slowly, is getting better. The down economy has assisted a little in helping to retain highly effective teachers in Mehlville's classrooms, but unless you are wishing for a down economy to continue, that benefit will soon dissappear.

Test scores and annual report performance 2-5 years from now will be a direct result of the staffing and pay decisions current board of education and administration.

If the economy fails, they don't have much to worry about, but if the economy contines to grow, our board of education will reward the children of our community with a less than stellar annual report and the lifetime consequences of a lesser education.

Regardless of the future, our current classroom teachers deserve an across the board merit raise now!

Our community has ridden the backs of the teachers and their good will long enough. As I said, buildings don't teach students, teachers teach students. All you need for a child to learn, is a quality teacher and a place for them to educate their students. 

A highly effective classroom teacher can squeeze the blood from a turnip and all they need is a child to listen.

At Mehlville, our latest performance report proves that we have hundreds of highly effective teachers and it's time to reward their good efforts with a substantial raise.

It's a disagrace and a complete abuse of our classroom teachers' good will that we continue to pay them so low.  In time it will cost us all much more than a fair raise would cost us now.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Karl Wulff January 14, 2013 at 08:53 PM
The Teabagger in question is Rich Franz. He is a know-nothing blowhard who would have our kids reading from outdated textbooks and reduce our fantastic teachers to penury. He needs to be thrown out on his ear next election, which is next year in 2014. Mehlville voters, it's up to you.
Mike Stevens January 14, 2013 at 10:25 PM
How true that teachers are the most important impact on students. One researcher, Linda Darling-Hammond analyzed data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress and found "that the effects of well-prepared teachers on student achievement can be stronger than the influences of student background factors, such as poverty, language background, and minority status." A top notch teacher can increase achievement levels almost 50 points higher than mediocre teachers can. In Missouri, a new teacher evaluation system is being put into place that emphasizes growth and student performance. Principals will be evaluated on how well schools are performing using hard data. And even college teacher preparation programs will be evaluated for how effectively they prepare teachers. Which brings me to my point---if people like Rick Franz think that teachers are overpaid, and that their retirement system is way too generous, and he influences the way that teachers are paid, then Mehlville no longer becomes an attractive district for people to apply at. Currently one of the lower paying districts, if teacher pay is changed even more then the only people who will apply for teaching jobs in Mehlville will be the ones that other districts turn down. So, if research shows that the best teachers get the best results, but Mehlville is unwilling to pay for the best, then Mehville is saying "We are OK with other districts performing better than us"
Mike Stevens January 14, 2013 at 10:41 PM
One of the best school systems in the world is in Finland, based on test scores, graduation data, college graduation, etc. Here are some of the keys to this, and how they've been so successful. 1. The school system is 100% state funded. 2. All teachers in Finland must have a masters degree, which is fully subsidized. 3. Teachers are selected from the top 10% of graduates (In 2010, 6,600 applicants vied for 660 primary school training slots). 4. high school teachers with 15 years of experience make 102 percent of what other college graduates make (in the US it's 67%) 5. Teachers are given the same status as doctors and lawyers So in the US, there are many people who think that teachers should not be compensated well, that their retirement system is far too generous, and that anyone can teach. We do not value or honor the profession of teaching like we do that of doctors or lawyers, and consequently our best and brightest do not go into teaching but instead other fields where they are paid more. If we truly valued education, we would value teachers, because there is also research that shows that a top quality teacher can have a value-added effect of 50 percentage points over a mediocre teacher. Regardless of how we evaluate teachers, if we are not starting with the cream of the crop in terms of the top graduates, than even our best teachers are not our top graduates and other countries will continue to outperform us (I posted this on another article also)
Karl Frank Jr. January 15, 2013 at 02:43 AM
Mike, I'm familiar with the plans for the "growth" based reviews but have not seen any documentation that it is going to be implemented. Do you have a link? I have seen the new state-recommended teacher reviews for next year and see nothing about a growth-based review model.
Mike Stevens January 15, 2013 at 12:25 PM
Here's a link to the actual document used:http://dese.mo.gov/eq/documents/eq-ees-teacher-evaluation.pdf Where, for example, p. 54 shows evidence for a proficient teacher and one indicator is "Assessment practices confirm student status and progress". Here is communication from the Department of Education regarding implementation timelines, noting that some districts are already using the new evaluation system in a pilot project and the resulting system will be available for the 13-14 school year: http://www.dese.mo.gov/news/2012/evaluation.htm Finally, here is the site that shows all of the information and updates: http://www.dese.mo.gov/eq/ees.htm
Karl Frank Jr. January 15, 2013 at 03:15 PM
Mike, thanks for the links. I know one thing for sure, if I were a new teacher making $32,000 at Mehlville, there is no way I would want to put up with all of that (mostly) subjective nonsense. Not when I could go to QT and start there for $45,000 a year and just use a cash register. It's things like this that make 50% of new teachers drop out of the system before five years...they just want to teach. That said, that's why I'm not a teacher. :) In my experience, the teachers and administrators know what to do but do not need have the resources necessary to make it possible. For instance, Mehlville has a $100 million a year budget. If we were to implement the KIPP Charter School system district-wide, it would cost $250-$300 million. It's one thing to education 600 students, it's another to educate 10,000. If it happens in the world, it happens in Mehlville, and that's the reality these teachers have to deal with.
PaulRevere January 15, 2013 at 10:36 PM
TESTING! 1-2-3
PaulRevere January 15, 2013 at 10:46 PM
Karl:So starting wages of QT workers are more than teacher's? Are you suggesting QT workers get paid for 2 months summer vacations? Are you suggesting QT workers get an additional 14.5% pension cost into their retirement plans. Are you suggesting QT workers pay 0% social security and get to retire with full benefits at age 58? QT workers get the Cadillac medical plans vision, Dental all inclusive? Qt workers get additiional 3 weeks for Christmas holiday vacation.? Give me a break! Costco comparison was bad enough. You should hire an employee and see just how wages are negotiated. It starts with what "YOU" can afford. Not what Taxing every resident can get you. A lesson in economics is not enough for you. You need a lesson on "LOGIC".
PaulRevere January 15, 2013 at 11:11 PM
I would estimate most teachers in All districts are costing 70% of the PS budgets. Lindbergh= 70%x$60mil = $42mil Mehlville = 70% x$110mil = +- $70mil Our homes are now taxed at over 1.5% of their value. Our businesses are paying almost Double the Personal home "tax $'s". Why do PS-Teachers need Tobacco taxes, Lotto Revenue, Casino Fees to support their Pay/Pensions? Why Are our Automobile Taxes going for PS support? Where does it stop? When does it stop? NEVER. Unless our school boards address this, IT WON't. We all deserve a PS system in Missouri. But, next time you read the sign that says-- "IT's For the Children" THINK!!!! It is 70 cents for the Teachers and only 30 cents for the children. A Formula that will have every Homeowner and Commercial Property and Automobile owner working as a slave to our Public school employees. Asking every resident to support an education system that pays Educators more than private educators is morally corrupt. No justifiable reason can be given why any PS Teacher or official should retire at age 58. Do public pension Plans give a teacher 30 years of service, while only working for 10 months per year? Anyone know if QT does that? Ask why a teacher is technically "laid-off" for 2 months each year.? If so, Why not paid unemployment for 2 months, rather than an annualized pay as if Working with full time medical and pension coverages. Whatever your Pay! NO REAL-WORKER (your Employer) IN AMERICA comes close in retirement.
Karl Frank Jr. January 16, 2013 at 01:51 AM
Pleurae Rev, First, you do realize you are comparing QT cashiers to classroom teachers with Master's Degrees, correct? Second, teachers average for the year, including vacations and holidays, 2392 hours a year...that's 46 hours a week for a 52 week year. (My wife, for reference, works in the television department of Costco, makes more than $50,000 a year, and gets 5 weeks paid vacation plus holidays.) Third, thanks for pointing out that even though starting teachers only make $32,000 a year, that is before they are mandated to contribute 14.5% of that to their retirement. Lastly, I will never forget the time I called my son's kindergarten teacher at 11:30 p.m. on a Friday night to leave her a message about him when she came in Monday morning. To my surprise, she (Sherlee Garten), answered the phone. It turned out that she regularly stayed there past midnight on Friday nights for her entire 30 year career to prepare for the next weeks lessons...for Kindergartners. Good day sir.
Bryan Andrews. January 16, 2013 at 09:21 PM
Wow Paul can do math dont forget to thank a teacher
Mike Stevens January 17, 2013 at 10:42 PM
I'm not sure why there is such an uproar about the public school teacher retirement system. People seem to think that teachers are retiring as millionaires or something. PaulRevere, do you realize that while teachers do not pay into Social Security, they also cannot collect from it? Even if they worked in another job where they payed into Social Security, that right is taken away when they become teachers, and not just while they are teaching but forever. Teachers do not get the option of giving up 14.5% of their paycheck to the retirement system, while business sector employees can choose to participate in programs? And if you think that a teacher only works 10 months a year, you really need to spend a calendar year with a quality teacher and you'll see teachers who are writing lesson plans on weekends, grading papers late at night, taking extra courses or training sessions during summer months, staying late for meetings or events or other things. Teachers do not get to "clock out" and walk away from the job. No QT worker is going to get stopped in the supermarket by parents or students to talk, no QT workers get calls on their breaks to discuss their latest test, no QT workers only get 18 minutes lunches and have to try and find 1 or 2 opportunities to use the restroom all day. I really believe that anyone who thinks teachers are just collecting money gifts from taxpayers needs to spend a good week with a teacher, they'll see.
Mike Stevens January 17, 2013 at 10:46 PM
And this is exactly what I wrote about earlier--in Finland teachers are treated with the same level of respect and reverence as doctors. I don't see anyone questioning a doctor's salary or their benefits or retirement plan, yet we think it's OK to question a teacher. Many doctors are partially paid with public funds and taxpayer money, but no one is questioning that. And how many times do we access a doctor? 2-3 times a year if we are generally healthy? Maybe more, but not for 7 hours a day, everyday. I always hear "Well I would want the best doctor taking care of me, the best surgeon, and you have to pay for that" but we are OK with not paying teachers or paying the best and brightest to become teachers. Teachers have a far greater impact than doctors---who by the way were taught by teachers! It all comes back to what society values, and right now teachers do not feel valued, especially by people like PaulRevere and Rich Franz.
mike January 19, 2013 at 05:43 PM
Nice article Carl. The teachers do deserve a raise! However, I don't see that happening with the current board. It looks better to build things with no tax increases. Then they can show everyone how smart they are compared to past boards...
Angela Scheer January 19, 2013 at 08:47 PM
I taught at Mehlville High School for 9 years before leaving in 2008. I LOVED my kids at Mehlville and cried for days when I had to tell them I was leaving but I had no choice - my husband is a carpenter and, with the recession, I was worried we would need to live on my salary alone. We could not do it on the money I was making at Mehlville (despite my 2 Masters degrees). I left Mehlville for the Kirkwood School District and a $10,000 pay increase the first year. I have continued to receive not only my steps each year at Kirkwood but also cost of living raises to the pay scale. Granted, in the last few years those cost of living increases have been only 1-2% but I don't have to worry I won't be able to take care of my family or that my husband and I would lose our home. Many in the Mehlville community ARE supportive of the teachers but the overwhelming number do not. It was frustrating to feel like I poured my heart and soul into my job each day and then feel SO unappreciated for it by people who were okay with me making less and less money each year by denying me even cost of living increases. The teachers in the Mehlville district deserve to be treated with respect - they are helping raise your children and teach them to be successful adults one day!
Karl Frank Jr. January 19, 2013 at 08:53 PM
Excellent testimony Angela, sorry you had to go.
PaulRevere January 22, 2013 at 03:13 AM
How about "MERIT" TAX decreases!What's so hard to understand about the public school Pay structure?"merit" raises based on WHAT?. WHY, Citizens should be forced to pay public education totaling $10,000 per student. Why is private education now a lesser cost? Yep! it's the teacher cost. People should be paying what the market can afford. (try tuition) .Let's see how the residents react.It makes no difference how hard you work. Reveal the real cost of our schools. 14.5%pensions- Dues side cost. All of our educators are "thieves". Stealing their pay from commercial establishments, Tobacco settlements,Lotto, Casino fess, Excessive auto Property taxes. Every body pays a different cost for Education --That is not a fair system. Would some intelligence explain why $150K homes should pay different Cost to support Education based on location. Why should a teacher in Ladue get more pay than a Mehlville teacher? It's wrong. All teachers should make the same pay --no matter where they teach. My system actually gets more pay for Mehlville teachers. The whole system is on course to self-destruct as low-income areas will be left with Junk-Teachers. Mehlville is now depending more on "Grants" and Federal funding to support he projects online. That, folks is a one way ticket to disaster. No one actually owns their home when $2,000 real estate taxes are annually due. (It's "RENT" money today. Landlords are Teachers. Many forclosures resulted from unpaid Real est taxes.
Karl Frank Jr. January 22, 2013 at 04:18 AM
You'll have to kind of get over that selfishness and shortsightedness Your Reverence. It was a federal requirement for Missouri to become a state to offer public education in 1821 and is explicitly outlined in Missouri Constitution today. So, teachers are people. Teachers get Master's degrees at universities to do their jobs. Teachers put more into society than taxpayers put in, and the everyone gets more out of it. It's ok if you don't see that. I don't see a blog post on Mehlville Patch changing your mind on this issue. You don't like the system...fine...but that has nothing to do with the Mehlville School District and the MARKET for highly effective teachers in the classroom for mandated testing. You are barking up the wrong tree my good sir...or strange one...since no one even really knows who you are.

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