WHEN WILL BOARDS LEARN
The New York City Board of Education recently announced an increase in the salary of over twenty percent for Chancellor Rudy Crew who, at a $245,000, will now out earn the President of the United States, the Governor of New York and the Mayor of the City. The job also includes the use of a Brooklyn Heights town-house, a car and driver and many other fringe benefits. This increase was necessary the Board maintained to keep Crew in his post so that the school system would have some stability. Like so many boards of education, the New York Board in its overly solicitous concern for the welfare of the Chancellor has once again denigrated the work of the people who do the real work of the school system - the people who actually educate the children - the people who when it comes time for their raises to be considered often find boards crying poverty and looking for givebacks rather than offering increases.
Teachers and building administrators in New York work for some of the lowest salaries in the metropolitan area, often under the most difficult of circumstances. These positions have become so unattractive that the Board will have to hire some 9000 unlicensed teachers this year. It has become a grim joke to observe that the City schools have become the minor leagues from which the more affluent suburbs draw their talent. Buildings crumble, violence abounds, underpaid talent looks to flee, but the Chancellor is seen as the linchpin of stability. How patently absurd!
The mistake of the New York City Board is all to familiar. Central office staff find it much easier to negotiate with boards of education than their subordinates in the trenches. Boards can somehow take pride in having a highly paid superintendent, while it appears to be a source of embarrassment to yield the slightest improvements to the people in the schools. How many superintendents here on Long Island took salary freezes in districts where boards tenaciously looked to extract them from their teachers - often stalling these negotiations for two or three years and breeding bitterness and resentment in the process.
Imagine a different model, one in which boards take pride in having a well paid staff working under excellent conditions. Imagine the president of the New York Board holding a press conference and announcing, "We have a crisis in our schools. The people who educate our children are leaving in droves. Their morale is at an all-time low. I am announcing today a crash program to reverse this trend and to once again make our schools desirable places to do the vital work of educating children." Imagine!
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