Briefing Book: High school teachers at college prices

There’s been so much hand-wringing lately about who is speaking to us here at Briefing Book that it’s newsworthy when someone decides not to speak to us. A little background first.

Last week, as you recall, the “Executive Board” of the teachers union posted a reply to our inaugural column. The details don’t really matter — the teachers union is happy to talk about anything other than the teachers union’s unsustainable salaries and benefits. But the lack of a byline piqued our curiosity. For a group that values “transparency,” the teachers union seemed awfully reticent about revealing the members comprising this shadow group. Who is this mysterious “Executive Board” anyway? So we decided to ask two of its members, teachers Geoff Curtis and Paul Saloom.

Mr. Curtis didn’t reply to our inquiry. But Mr. Saloom sent a note telling us — and we’re quoting here — “I cannot in good conscience become one of your sources.” Well.

First of all, we didn’t think we were asking for state secrets. Since Messrs. Curtis and Saloom had made a big deal of saying that the “Executive Board” had lost faith in the district’s leadership, we simply wanted some idea of who else had experienced such a dispiriting loss of confidence. Or to put it another way: “I find your lack of faith disturbing.” We got the rest of the names without too much trouble.

Second, we were amused by Mr. Saloom’s rejection of our offer to join the long line of luminaries serving up scoop to Briefing Book. On the one hand, it’d be pretty nifty to have yet another faculty member dishing to us about the union’s internal goings-on. On the other hand, the accounting department says we’ve already maxed out The Ledger’s “reliable source” budget for this fiscal quarter, so Mr. Saloom’s refusal saves us the nuisance of issuing a voucher instead of another paycheck. And speaking of paychecks …

We’ve discovered a nifty little website that sheds some light on what we’re paying here in good ol’ KLSD. FindTheData is a free website that contains all the pay information for New York state employees. And quite the site it is! Just input the district’s name into the search engine and up pops several hundred publicly available, taxpayer-funded, KLSD salaries.

For example, according to FindTheData, Mr. Saloom pulls in a cool $141,930 a year for his job preparing C students to run the world. Mr. Curtis, who teaches health to the kiddies when he’s not organizing ambushes against school superintendents, pulls in a very healthy $154,738. And that’s not counting those pension and lifetime health care benefits!

We don’t mean to pick on either of these tenured gents, who seem pleasant enough when they’re not agonizing about moral dilemmas or ambushing the school board. We had hoped they would be helpful chaps and update FindTheData’s 2010 salary info for us, but as neither one seems thrilled at the idea of corresponding with us — well, guys, the offer remains open!

For some perspective, the site notes that the above salaries, like the salaries of most KLSD employees, are way, way, way higher than the average salary for New York state employees — and even higher when compared to the average salary for New York state teachers. And higher even than salaries for college faculty — The Wall Street Journal reported that the salary of a full professor with a doctorate at a public university averages $120,000 a year.

As noted before here at Briefing Book, a lot of taxpayers around these parts make a whole lot less than the average KLSD teacher. And those taxpayers are paying for a KLSD education not based on the taxpayer’s earnings or degrees, but on the value of the taxpayer’s real estate.

So as you send your property tax check to the Town House this month, ask yourself how much longer you can afford to pay college faculty prices for high school teachers.

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  • Melanie

    Really? “Most” salaries are higher? Do the math and give your readers the courtesy of an actual percentage. Or is your real intent to spread more propaganda? That may be why Mr. Saloom won’t answer your questions, “Yellow journalism” is still, in this day and age, despicable.

    • Glenn DeFaber

      If you feel that teachers in K-L are making less go to FindTheData web site. Why are teachers ashamed of the excellent income they make?

    • Ewing33

      Intersting website JD…….over three hundred KLSD employees earn in excess of 100k……

      Too bad the website doesn’t calculate the value of the pension and virtually free health care benefits

  • Tom

    A whole lot of taxpayers in Katonah-Lewisboro are making a whole lot less than the average teacher? Where in our district could all these people possibly be living? Also, I’m sure Mr. Saloom’s students and their parents must be thrilled to see your characterization of them. Also, check out the weekly hours and calendar year of college professors vs. high school teachers. A few facts might have added a bit of credibility to your rant.

    • Ewing33

      Median household income in Katonah is 129k… guess where they live Tom…right here

      • Tom

        Interesting website indeed..The K-L teachers’ salary scale tops out at around $145,000 (with maximum years and credits). So how can any teachers possibly be making salaries such as $328,273 (far more than our Superintendent), $217,544 (more than our principals), $190,798, etc. listed on this site? No matter how many teams they coached or extracurriculars they ran, teachers couldn’t possibly get their pay anywhere near those numbers. I have to wonder about the accuracy of of this data.

        • Glenn DeFaber

          If the employee retires the district pays them back for sick days not taken.
          Imagine accumulating sick days when you started your job at a significantly lower salary and then cashing them in at the rate of pay when you retire. In some cases sick days could be worth 300% more when you retire.

          That is a great deal, right?

          • Ewing33

            Correct……The KES school shrink retired last year and he was paid over 300k for that exact reason. This year he is enjoying his retirement by running charter cruises on his very large boat docked in Mamaroneck……

            The 200k plus salaries are largely enjoyed by the senior administrators (Mr. Jumper, etc.). About 300 employees earn in excess of 100k….

  • Tom

    Thanks for clarifying that. Boy this column is getting skinny.

  • Henry

    The real issue is that while tax payers in the district got no salary increases and received cuts to benefits (or even worse, pay cuts or job losses) in the declining economy, school district employees continued to receive the annual increases built into their contracts. Isn’t it time that public employee salaries be tied in with the strength of the economy? Most of corporate America accepted pay cuts, reduced hours, no bonuses and benefit reductions with the poor performing economy. School district compensation/benefits should not be automatic; contracts need to provide stipulations for changes to packages based on the financial strength of their employer as well – community tax payers.

    • Tom

      If you want district employees to be paid in the same way as corporate America and take pay cuts when times are bad, then they shouldn’t they also be awarded the large annual bonuses much of corporate America receives when times are good? Where was the outcry for teacher bonuses when our economy was going well? It needs to work both ways.

      • Lewis Boro

        Majority of private sector workers do not make large annual bonuses even in the good times. Many of the residents of K-L are not high paid corporate executives especially in Lewisboro. In private industry people are paid for performance and raises are based on the company’s ability to pay.
        For too many years basic business sense has not been applied when granting teachers and administrators their contracts.
        For a group of highly educated professionals it is hard to believe they do not know basic economics.

        As the saying goes”People that can do , people that can’t teach”

      • Henry

        Tom, Corporate America that rewards their employees in good times does so when THEY have financially strong years, measured against predetermined goals. If school districts want to give out bonuses for their strong years, they must also have measures to show how the school district prospered in a given year. Simply teaching students doesn’t deserve a bonus, that’s just part of the job. Going above expected performance, as in the corporate world, is the only way a bonus should be given.

        • Tom

          Teachers’ pay is absolutely affected by basic economics since their contracts have to be approved by the community as part of a budget vote. K-L’s salary scale increases have historically ranged from around 4% in good times, to the current 1 – 1 1/2%. Is that what this is all about? Why all the nastiness (your last two statements) against teachers, anyway? Why not direct your anger towards the Wall Street bankers who caused the economic collapse in the first place? If that problem was effectively dealt with (and it still hasn’t been), it’d go a whole lot further toward making life better for our community than taking away teachers’ raises and benefits. Attempting to make teachers “whipping boys” doesn’t really solve the bigger issues we’re faced with.

          • Lewis Boro

            Now Tom you know the raises of 4% to 1-1.5 % is only a half truth. You only stated the cost of living increase raise. You forgot to mention the step and lane increases. When you add that all up the raises can be up to 10% per year.

            Why do people like yourself want to compare the average resident in K-L as if they were corporate fat cats? Most of us are ordinary working stiffs that have been affected by the Wall St. meltdown considerably more than teachers. Even a 1 % raise has been better than most people have gotten from their private sector employer.

            Let me give the Teachers Union some advise; the longer you protest and deny reality the worse it will get. You can longer pander to the wealthier parents mostly in Katonah to get what you want. That 2% tax cap with the 60% vote needed to pass a budget has given us private sector working stiffs the upper hand.

            Settle this because K-L has some of the best educators in the area.

  • Tom

    . It doesn’t seem fair to imply that somehow, the K-L community has been duped into the current teacher contract status. Contracts are always indirectly subjected to a community vote. (When a budget is voted down, the next teachers’ contract is affected accordingly in order to get the next budget passed.) The present contract should be representative of the majority of voters.
    As I said before though, why aren’t we focused on getting proper regulations passed that would stop Wall Street bankers from causing another economic disaster, or demand an end to the subsidies to large oil companies that are making record profits? Those are really big issues, ones that would have a far greater impact on our economic health locally and nationally. Yet instead, here we are arguing about the compensation of our district’s teachers.
    Teachers’ contracts have always been responsive to the community’s ability to pay, and I’m sure that’s how it will play out this time, too. Multi-year contract make such responsiveness delayed sometimes, in either direction.) Let’s just be careful not to get carried away in the process, and risk losing the chance to continue attracting quality educators to our district. The corporate world competes for the best employees and so do schools. We have terrific kids from wonderfully supportive homes, and those kids deserve good teachers.
    There are much bigger fish to fry.

  • Spot on with this write-up, I seriously think this site needs a great deal more attention. I’ll probably be returning to read through more, thanks for the information!

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