C’mon, make some sense

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 26, 2005

An obviously learned gentleman, he could be a wonderful defense attorney, appeared before city officials pleading the annual case for our local teachers. The proposed 4 percent raise is not only dismal, in his mind, but insulting to teachers. (Boy, I’d like to get one.) Listen to the gist of what he said…it’s the same old song. A 4 percent increase will not get our SOL scores out of the regional basement. The amount of money we are willing to pay teachers, including the raise, is not sufficient to attract &uot;experienced&uot; teachers. He explained how it takes seven years for a teacher to have anything on the stick. Less than that, they are inexperienced. If we can’t pull in experienced teachers we are doomed to failure and that takes more than a piddling 4 percent added to current salaries. That’s about what he said

What he is suggesting, and doesn’t realize it, is that our teachers are inexperienced and lacking in the necessary skills to push our embarrassing level of SOL scores (58 percent) up to Virginia Beach’s 98. So why should we give them any raise? Raises won’t make them experienced? Is he perhaps saying we need level of pay for level of skill…that we must determine who are good and who are so-so and pay them accordingly? I’ll buy that…but try to get away with it. And what criteria do we use when interviewing new teachers…must they have seven years on a teaching job somewhere? And what would that prove? It takes more than time to produce an excellent teacher.

He went on to say that if the high city officials had kids in school they’d think differently about the teacher’s pay. Of course high city officials also better think about taxpayer opinion and how we are already smarting from collective taxes and would like to do some things other than just get by. Teachers’ contracts are not life binding and they can move on. I suspect very few of them would leave even if their pay were cut. It would be nice if those who are &uot;inexperienced&uot; did up and leave…we should not be in the business of apprentices. Then we could raise salaries of the &uot;experienced&uot; and watch our SOL scores go out of sight. Right?

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Sorry, Sir, your pleading does not wash. It appears you want more than 4 percent raises for so-so performance. Now if you come back to the city officials with ideas for sifting through our teachers and getting them to accept pay equal to skill, you might get somewhere. Tenure is not an acceptable, nor a sensible measurement. And while you are at it, explain to us why talented and experienced teachers sit still for the current system of salaries and flat increases. What prevents them from being paid for extraordinary skills? It’s the system that is screwed up…ask the teachers. Next case.

Whoever those folks were that studied the ever-increasing assessment problem for fixed income elderly, they did excellent research and have come up with a great step toward fixing it. The presentation by Christine Ledford made it clear that the city recognizes and acknowledges the situation can be very serious for some residents. The ordinance, as it reads now, would cost the city about a million in lost revenue but still allow their wild spending in the village to continue.

It is gratifying to see our council finally consider action that can benefit a small portion of our citizens. The elderly, over 65, represent about 10 percent of the population of Suffolk and perhaps two percent of them are hard pressed to remain in their homes. If council takes an even bigger step, citizens won’t mind at all. They will just buy the drugs the doctor recommended and up the thermostat.

Now that this is a done deal, for those over 65 or disabled, we can concentrate on taking on the rules that force our assessor to jam it up everyone’s nose. I don’t suppose we will ever see the Commonwealth allow cities to grow up and determine their own worth. But there is still the word &uot;revenue neutral.&uot; I don’t know what would prevent Suffolk from lowering the tax rate to compensate for the assessment rise. Of course there is the likelihood that city fathers have other ambiance enhancers in mind for the village and lowering the city income is a no-no. You will have to march on city hall to stop that.

Is there ever a day when mattresses are not on sale?

Robert Pocklington lives in Suffolk and is a regular News-Herald columnist. Reach him at robert.pocklington@suffolknewsherald.com.