Letter to the Editor: Mehlville School District Leaving Our Teachers Behind

Karl Frank, Jr., says you can't invest in children's futures without investing in teachers.

There is an old saying among educators, "You can't put children first if you put teachers last," but that is exactly what the Mehlville School District is doing.

While building a second rate auditorium at Mehlville, a bunch of tennis courts at Bernard Middle School that will require transportation for high school students, and sitting on taxpayer money with 13+ percent balances - our teachers remain the second lowest paid in St. Louis County.

Auditoriums are nice.  So are tennis courts.  As a former board member, I wanted both, but not if it meant leaving our teachers behind, and not second rate, misplaced facilities.  On the balances, I am on the record against sitting on taxpayer money instead of putting it in the classroom, especially when we could be investing in acquiring and retaining higher quality teachers.

There is a market for good teachers with proven experience, and I'm not talking about 10,000 applicants with no experience who just graduated from University of Phoenix   

To be clear, when I write about quality teachers, I am talking about teachers with a proven track record of additive and cumulative benefits to an individual child's education.  The teachers I'm talking about often leave Mehlville for as much as $10,000 more a year at neighboring districts, or don't even bother coming here to begin with.

Mehlville is not investing in our children because they are not investing in our teachers.  Instead, they are building second rate auditoriums, misplaced tennis courts, and sitting on taxpayer money for artificially inflated balances.

My children will rarely use the auditorium at Mehlville High School, but they will be in the classroom with a teacher almost 100% of the time.  It makes you wonder if the administration is putting our children first or are more concerned about their own legacy reputations.

After three decades of mistreating our teachers, it's time for this district and this community to quit leaving our teachers behind.

Thank you,
Karl Frank Jr.

Mike Stevens October 30, 2012 at 08:55 PM
Karl--I agree with this, except I support the balances, and here's why---school districts do not get any revenue until about November due to tax collections, so balances are used to pay the bills until the new money comes in. In previous years, Mehlville's balances were too low to meet those expenses, so the district had to borrow money on a short term loan at a high interest rate. I agree that teachers need to be paid more, and held accountable for their instruction, and I agree that building an auditorium and new tennis courts----even though no new money was requested--was misguided and only a way to say "Hey, look what I did." And to think that gypsum board (drywall) has to be an "additional item" for the auditorium? What will the interior walls look like, an industrial building? Bad ideas.
Karl Frank Jr. October 30, 2012 at 11:19 PM
Mike, Mehlville usually came out aheaf on this issue, believe it or not. If I remember correctly, Mehlville generally came out between 30,000 and 50,000 ahead because of how the interest rates worked. Something could change in the future that would change that, but you can adjust accordingly when you have too. But i know that since 2000, Mehlville actually made money on the money that was borrowed.
Karl Frank Jr. October 30, 2012 at 11:20 PM
Justin M Heilig October 31, 2012 at 03:42 PM
My argument quickly becomes "Students first, Teachers last." If you can give something to the students (auditorium, library, text books) you should. Their parents pay the taxes that fund the schools, and I can tell you from my own experience... The taxes are high. While teachers pay taxes too and are not the best compensated, public schools are here to serve the students. I am a product of the public school system. It is a system that does not encourage excellence among its staff members, tolerates sub-par educators, and does not always keep the best ideals for its students in mind. I would say that should you ask most people they disagree with the low pay levels of our teachers, but they would also say that poor teachers should be fired, not paid more and that raises should be based on merit. Any parent would tell you to put their child first before teachers and unions, and in this light I think your argument is a losing one. Until the teachers themselves begin to measure up, until the students have current text books, updated libraries and computer labs, until the schools fully facilitate athletics and arts (which keep many kids in school and out of trouble) and can do this all while remaining in budget... Teachers should not get raises.. it is the responsibility of the Board, the PTA, and others involved in the district to put their heads together and figure out just how we can make this happen. If the Clinton admin could institute Welfare reform, surely this can be done.
Karl Frank Jr. November 01, 2012 at 04:07 PM
Justin, Mehlville does have a good evaluation system of their teachers including the ability to analyze additive and cumulative knowledge to individual students. They also analyze their staff the way any other typical business does with their ability to stick to the program of their manager (principle), attendance, dedication to job, communication skills with co-workers, students, parents, etc. Mehlville has the best teachers our community will pay for, and historically, our teachers have been able to squeeze blood from a turnip like not other group of employees I've ever seen. They really love our kids.
Karl Frank Jr. November 01, 2012 at 04:36 PM
Citizen Smith November 07, 2012 at 02:07 AM
Karl, you said, "Mehlville has the best teachers our community will pay for," and "especially when we could be investing in acquiring and retaining higher quality teachers.". It seems, on the whole, you feel that we have "second-rate" teachers, that stay in Mehlville just because they can't do better. I find your attitude insulting. Many of our teachers are former graduates that came back to Mehlville for a job, knowing full well the situation they would be working in. Why do you think that is, Karl? I will tell you a few of the reasons I have been given by these dedicated people. They feel a sense of community, they feel they have something to share with the people of South County, they feel this is where they can do the most good, etc.. Do these sound like the ideals of second-rate, dissatisfied teachers?
Citizen Smith November 07, 2012 at 02:07 AM
I have found that the majority of the teachers are welcoming of ANY addition to school facilities, whether it directly benefits the subjects they teach or not. That is simply because, almost to a fault, they are good and giving people. In the particular case of the tennis courts and the auditorium, they will welcome these facilities, because they know what any of us that are very involved in the schools know. The vast majority of children involved in the performing arts (band, choir, theater) as well as team and individual athletic activities are better students and more well rounded individuals overall. I am so happy that you are no longer on the school board and I can only conclude that our community would be much better off and you would be much happier if you simply moved to a community that employs your "higher quality" people.
Logical Thought November 07, 2012 at 04:03 AM
Citizen Smith, as a teacher in the district I can say that you are dead wrong. There is no sense of community. I have only seen one board member ever in a school building. The people of south county continue to make excuses for why they should not spend more money toward education such as "times are hard". Times are hard everywhere yet in the district I live in we value education. We understand that schools that look attractive to potential home buyers increases house value. Mehlville/Oakville spends $4,000 less per student than the county average. You should be embarrassed by the opportunities this community takes away from its students. Karl was not calling the current teachers "second rate". What he was saying is that the Mehlville District is a stepping stone for districts that pay more. The Kirkwoods of the St. Louis area are plucking the top teachers from Mehlville. Lastly alumni return to the district because it is an opportunity to get into the teaching profession because all the other districts, that pay a lot more, are filled with ex-Mehlville veteran teachers. I like the kids I teach, but I will seriously have to consider leaving Mehlville because of the large amounts of money I will miss out on throughout my career and retirement. This does not make me a bad person, this makes me a smart professional who has a family to think about.
Citizen Smith November 07, 2012 at 05:16 AM
Well Mr. or Ms, "professional", feel free to "stepping stone" your way out of the district with Karl, you're not needed or wanted here. Your attitude will make you obvious and myself and other district parents will make you unemployed. Remember, at the end of the day, you still work for us and you can be replaced, quite easily, I'm sure.
Citizen Smith November 07, 2012 at 05:20 AM
P.S. Terribly sorry to hear that you, like Karl, have reproduced, to spread your poison. How sad for your children.
Pat January 24, 2013 at 02:29 AM
Wow Citizen Smith, no need to be "ugly"...even when the truth hurts. Sarcasm is really unbecoming when trying to argue a point. It does not help your cause but makes community members, as myself, shake their heads in disgust. You are complete proof of the fact that MSD does not truly promote community. You don't like someone's opinion and your answer is to "make them unemployed"? Is that a lesson you teach your own children? When I want your opinion, I'll give it to you? While Mehlville is often a stepping stone, more often, it is a stomping ground for the people who actually care about the children in the Mehlville community. The system is broken from the top-down in the MSD. It's nearly impossible to influence any kind of positive change within an institution that cares more about its glowing headlines and higher pay for the "good ol' boys" than the community it serves and the people the community employs to teach, guide and raise their children. If Smith's attitude makes him an obvious poison, then you should feel sad for YOUR children because you are lying to yourself and the people who would listen to your ignorance about how this particular school district actually works. I find Logical Thought refreshing and honest. Most teachers do not speak openly for fear of idle threats from misguided community members and retribution from the people trying who "just want to look good."
Pat January 24, 2013 at 02:31 AM
Furthermore, I challenge you to have your district audited (I'm not talking finances but procedures and law) by the Department of Education, in every single area of instruction. Unfortunately, again, the truth will hurt those you are trying to protect the very people who are hurting this community the most. And yes, even I would be afraid of what they might find.
Karl Frank Jr. January 24, 2013 at 04:04 AM
Citizen Smith, care to not be a coward and identify yourself? At least I put my name and face on my comments.
Karl Frank Jr. January 24, 2013 at 04:05 AM
Consider this testimony from former Mehlville teacher Angela Scheer: "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 24, 2013 at 04:06 AM
The comment from former Mehlville teacher Angela Scheer was in relation to my latest Mehlville Patch post: http://mehlville-oakville.patch.com/blog_posts/all-of-mehlvilles-teachers-deserve-a-merit-pay-raise-in-spite-of-tea-party-school-board-members
Bob McKitrick January 24, 2013 at 06:56 AM
Karl, I couldn't agree more with your letter and article last week regarding Merit Pay. . Will merit pay work in Mehlville? I'm skeptical. I'm thinking it would strain a lot of relationships between teachers. Honestly, I am getting very tired of South County politics. I don't understand why public employees are attacked so much around here. Is it jealousy over our stable line of work and pension system? Maybe. Or blindly following extreme right wing rhetoric? Perhaps. As I've posted on these pages before, I am a Parkway teacher, I am very proud to work for Parkway, and I feel like I am fairly compensated in Parkway. I can afford to own a home in Oakville and support my family on my salary alone. I also have a great medical benefits package which is just as important to my young family. I've compared my salary and benefits to those of Mehlville's (easy to do - its all public information) and I don't think I could make ends meet if I worked as a teacher there. I can't say this enough - If any group of teachers deserve a raise in St. Louis county, it's the teachers in Mehlville. And by the way, in my 13 years in Parkway, the teaching staff has never been publicly belittled by members of their Board of Education. Full Day Kindergarten has never been referred to as "taxpayer subsidized daycare," we've never been publicly challenged to bring in receipts to prove we spend our own money on our classrooms, and there are no calls to strip down PSRS.
Bob McKitrick January 24, 2013 at 07:04 AM
And to further my rant, if you are going to reply to my post, have the courage to use your real name. I ignore historical figures who died 200+ years ago. Thanks.
Citizen Smith January 24, 2013 at 10:07 PM
Well Karl with a K my name IS Robert Smith, as for a picture, well it's my prerogative to not post my face everywhere. If you choose to, that is certainly your right and privilege. Why not try the Kirkwood Patch? As for me being a coward, I find you to be a funny little man,. If you think plastering your smirking puss all over the internet is all it takes to make you not a coward, then you are even more of a foo than I first thought. I am so happy you have found gainful employment in these tough times, why not move to Kirkwood, take your little business, your dripping cynicism and all your left-laden little friends with you? K?
Karl Frank Jr. January 24, 2013 at 11:00 PM
Nice to "meet" you Robert. Am I safe in saying that you do not value highly effective public education?


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