03/21/07 — Duplin teachers unhappy with supplement distribution

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Duplin teachers unhappy with supplement distribution

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on March 21, 2007 1:49 PM

An ongoing salary dispute between Duplin County's teachers and its school central office staff reared its head again at the county Board of Education's meeting last Tuesday, but now superintendent Dr. Wiley Doby is hoping things will soon smooth over.

The disagreement stems from the one-time $1 million special allocation the county commissioners made to the school system in October.

The money, which was given with no strings attached, is being spent by the school board on teacher and staff supplements, as well as minor facility repairs.

Many teachers, however, were not happy with the way the nearly $772,000 was divided into supplements. Most notably, they were upset about the difference between the average $2,967 teacher supplement and the $13,000 supplement for administrators.

Supplements are paid on top of the state-mandated salary scale and vary from county to county.

"It's insulting to me for them (administrators) to think they're worth four-and-a-half times more than we are," said Judy Malpass, a counselor at Beaulaville Elementary School and president of the Duplin County chapter of the North Carolina Association of Educators. "I expect them to get more money than we do, but we want it done fairly.

"There are a lot of teachers who come in early in the mornings and who leave late in the afternoon. We have some excellent teachers in our schools."

And, she continued, if they didn't want to pay the teachers a higher supplement, then they could have at least diverted some of the administrative supplements toward hiring more teacher assistants, fixing the facilities or doing something to reduce class sizes.

"It was like a slap in the face to us," Ms. Malpass said. "We're a poor county. If you're having problems, how does giving large supplements to somebody at the board make them better?

"We don't have enough assistants. We don't have enough supplies. And then they go and do something like this? Do they think that makes us respect them? They should be ashamed."

So far, only half of the supplements have been paid. Teachers and staff will receive the other half toward the end of the school year.

"We want it amended," Ms. Malpass said. "We want this to be fixed. That's all we want. And we don't want it to ever happen again."

Doby said, however, that the supplement distribution will not be changed and that he thinks the money was given out fairly.

"One of the purposes of the supplement was to help us compete to recruit and retain more favorably with not only surrounding counties, but the rest of the state and the nation," he said. "And teachers certainly do a lot of hard work, but the administrators work hard also."

In many ways, school board chairwoman Emily Manning said, the supplements reflect the level of responsibility in each position, as well as the years of experience.

And besides, she added, "Our teachers are making more than they've ever made. I'm sorry they don't feel like they're being valued, but I can assure them, they are valued. I wish we had more money, but we feel like the supplements were given the way they should have been. I wouldn't change my vote on that."

That decision, school chief financial officer Carolyn Olivarez said, brought Duplin County in line with much of the rest of the state.

"We leaped everybody to the state average as according to DPI's (Department of Public Instruction) 2006 statistical profile. We were able to bring teachers, assistant principals and principals up to state averages based on that book," she explained. "There is not a state average for administrators, so the practice Duplin County has followed for the past seven years is that administrators are tied to the high school principal salary structure. We followed that same practice.

"We also followed the same practice for paying supplements to full-time (classified) personnel that's been in place for forever."

Part-time classified staff, particularly bus drivers, were not included in these supplement increases, but, Ms. Olivarez added, they will be included on a pro-rated basis in the upcoming budget.

But beyond the inequities in pay, Ms. Malpass also said she was concerned about the lack of communication between the administrators, the board and the teachers over that and other issues.

"Initially, once the thing came out about the supplements all the NCAE was trying to find out was the truth," she said, explaining how she and other representatives from the association met with Ms. Manning and Doby on several occasions, but never really got the answers they were looking for.

"I have been intimidated and I have been verbally attacked," Ms. Malpass said. "I feel like we're being patronized and that they think we'll go away."

And that, she said, is why she asked for help from NCAE President Eddie Davis, who attended last week's school board meeting.

"She received less than cordial treatment from the superintendent and I wanted to send a signal that our members are to be respected," Davis said, adding that he also disagreed with the way the supplements were distributed. "We just think they did not go in the right direction."

Doby denied the accusations that he or anybody else treated Ms. Malpass poorly.

"We have talked with the NCAE officers on two different occasions and answered their questions. They were never verbally attacked in the least," he said.

Ms. Manning also dismissed their complaints about a lack of explanation.

"It has been explained to them numerous times by myself, by other board members, by Carolyn Olivarez and by Dr. Doby. We have met with the teachers numerous times," she said. "It's been explained to them in detail. I don't know what the problem is, but I don't think there's going to be any time that supplements are given out that somebody's not going to have a complaint."

But Malpass also said there's been little communication about other changes in the school system such as increases in time spent in staff development and on writing and getting lesson plans approved.

"It's just lots of changes. We feel somebody is breathing down our throats. It's just a big mess and I see very little attempt to change it," she said. Doby, however, explained that those changes have been explained and will continue to be explained during their regular monthly meetings with the association.

Both -- the use of early release days as staff development rather than in-the-classroom time and the requirement for lesson plans to closely follow the N.C. Standard Course of Study and be written ahead of time and approved by administrators -- were mandated by the school board.

"I think those are changes for the better. Our children are tested on the standard course of study, so it is crucial that we teach the standard course of study every day in the classroom," Doby said. "And in order to that effectively, we have to prepare effectively."

And, he continued, while some of those requirements might be stricter than before and that the effects of that might be exacerbated by a new administration enforcing them, he does think things will soon settle down.

"I think anytime when there's transition and change, people have to adapt to it and I think we'll do that," Doby said.