Worries over cuts have teachers at ‘breaking point’
by Lindsay Field
May 16, 2013 07:26 AM | 7611 views | 39 39 comments | 19 19 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cobb School Board
Cobb School Board
slideshow

See a graphic with the full breakdown at the bottom of the story

One Cobb Schools board member said she was reassured Tuesday by the district employees who spoke out against budget cuts that would affect their salaries and classrooms during two hearings.

“I really do feel the frustration,” said north Cobb’s Kathleen Angelucci. “I was encouraged that as many people showed up that did. It takes a lot of courage because of fear for retribution.”

The board will vote on its fiscal 2014 budget, which includes cutting 182 teachers, only allowing for half a salary step increase and five furlough days in order to resolve an $86 million shortfall, at tonight’s board meeting.

The first of two sets of hearings to get feedback from the public and employees was Tuesday. The second will be tonight at 6:30 p.m.

Angelucci said there were about 30 people in attendance and according to the comment sign-in sheet, eight people spoke between the two hearings.

In years past, very few, if any, people have addressed the board during public hearings regarding the budget.

Walton High’s head football coach Rocky Hidalgo was the first to speak at both hearings. He has taught in Cobb for 17 years and moved to the area because of the school system’s reputation.

“I’m saddened at the current state of affairs in our school district,” he said. “Our teachers feel subjugated and victimized by their leadership. … We are at a breaking point.”

Since January, he said he has seen an 8 percent decrease in his take-home pay and over the last 10 years, he is receiving $500 less a month in pay.

“We can no longer function like this as educators. … It’s getting to a point where we won’t be able to stay in Cobb County financially,” he said. “Are we in the business of good teachers or cheap teachers? … We love working with our kids but we can’t have our profession devalued any more than it is right now. It’s all on your backs. You need to do the right thing.”

One of Hidalgo’s assistant coaches, Tripp Allen, also spoke passionately about what the budget woes have meant to him and the Cobb Schools’ teaching community.

“Those cuts cannot continue to be our solution each year to our problems. … The No. 1 item that ensures a successful education is student to teacher ratio and highly motivated people working with those students,” he said.

“You have an obligation to create a first-class school system and you’re also going to destroy the county if we don’t fix this problem. I’m from Atlanta and I’ve seen what happens when school systems are destroyed … We gotta fix this problem. These people around here are busting their tails every day. We deserve better.”

Amy Jenson, another Walton teacher, broke down her salary to the board, saying when she entered the profession out of college her take-home pay was $42,000 a year and now, 23 years later, she is still making that same amount.

“After taxes and after benefits, I take home about $150 a day … put in about 50 to 55 hours a week and I have 150 students,” she said. “When you think about what that means my hourly rate comes down to less than $15 that I take home.”

She urged the board to consider what these cuts mean to the individual teachers.

“We’re trying to attract great people into this profession and keep great teachers in Cobb County and the schools depend on great teachers, so I hope that you’ll consider other options,” she said.

Increase local taxes?

Increasing the millage rate, which can legally be maxed out at 20 in Cobb, or going to legislators to reconsider the tax exemption for residents over 62 are two options Jenson recommended.

Walton math teacher Tina Link and Cobb Schools parent Sobia Mufti agreed.

“No one likes to pay taxes … but I’d be more than willing to pay a higher millage rate on my home if it meant that we were going to maintain the quality of education that we’ve come to expect here in Cobb County,” Link said. “Someone is going to have to say that this is what we have to do although it’s not popular and nobody wants to pay more money.”

Mufti said she believed the increased millage rate would be more beneficial to the district as opposed to cutting jobs.

“Can you please find an alternative method to fund the budget that doesn’t negatively impact the quality of education our children receive?” she asked.

Board Chair Randy Scamihorn addressed the group as a whole after the hearings and thanked them for their comments.

“We need to hear from people who want to lend a voice,” he said. “We are with you, not against you. We are struggling to minimize the pain, if not eliminate it. I’m personally open to any and all ideas. I will come and speak with you, visit with you. … Cobb County is my home and this is where I’ll stay till the end and I want us to stay on top and I believe we can.”

Scamihorn also reminded them that the district has two major sources of revenue, property taxes and the state of Georgia and that in the last 10 years, property values have decreased and politicians have issued austerity cuts upwards of $500 million to Cobb Schools.

“Contact your state legislator,” he said. “Ask them where is our money going to and why aren’t they stronger pro-public education?”

Angelucci said she hopes the speakers participate in public comments again tonight.

“This stuff is hard to hear and it’s stuff that we are aware of and understand their frustrations but wish there was something we could do now,” she said, adding that she’d like to get the ball rolling sooner on budget talks next year.

“We don’t need to be complacent about this,” she said.

In the past, Angelucci said she feels like board members have just accepted what was presented by the district staff but, she said, “enough is enough.”

“I want to see a true offering of serious cuts,” she said. “Do I wish we could fix it now? Of course, but the only way we can do that is by really digging into the budget for next year?”

One of Tuesday night’s speakers, Robin Benefield, recommended forming a teacher committee to help dig in and determine what funding is really necessary.

“Over this next year get a committee of teachers, only teachers, not administrators because administrators tend to skew things … let us tell you what we see in our schools that can be cut,” she said.

She also questioned the need for a travel budget and professional development funding.

“If we have people who can’t do their jobs without traveling, get rid of them. Nobody needs to travel,” she said.

As far as the vote tonight, Angelucci said she hasn’t decided if she’ll approve the budget as recommended or if she’ll consider amendments.

“I’d like to hear what everybody else has to say,” she said. “I believe that teachers should have the full step increase, especially if that money comes from the state.”

Angelucci said she still questions some things but “feels good” because they can make changes at a later date to the budget if needed.

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Comments
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Dixiechick59
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May 21, 2013
To pay up seniors:

And you,junior, are evidently content to sit back and let others pay your way in life, and then whine that the government doesn't do enough for you.

Put your money where your mouth is, and make an annual donation of 60% of your property tax bill ( if you have one) to the public school of your choice for 35 years, and then you might have some basis to complain about the school tax exemption.

Balanced View
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May 16, 2013
I don't like paying taxes anymore than the next person. However, all taxes are not created equal. When I pay state income tax, that money pays for state-wide programs (education or otherwise), and if I do not directly benefit from those programs, then I am out of luck.

However, when I pay property taxes, and those property taxes go into local public education, the value of my property goes up. I live in East Cobb. The value of my home is unequivocably higher than it would be if the schools in the area were not among the best in the state.

Additionally, the senior tax exemption does not make complete sense to me. Yes, it's true that seniors do not get the direct benefit of having children go to local schools (anymore than I get the benefit of the income taxes I pay going to statewide programs). However, seniors DO get the benefit of increasing property values based on better schools in the district. When they are ready to buy that vacation home in Florida, they get the benefit then.

A Walton Student
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May 16, 2013
I just wanted to say that I appreciate the hard work of all of my teachers and know that I've received a fantastic education because of their dedication to their jobs. I've been fortunate to have both Mrs. Jenson and Mrs. Link as teachers - the two best teachers I've EVER had. They are truly incredible and care so much for their students.

I am a senior now and know that I would not be prepared to succeed in college and "the real world" if it weren't for my teachers. I've seen in the last two years how our class sizes have increased, which makes it much harder on the teachers to teach. I don't know how they do all that they do - not just planning, teaching and grading, but sponsoring clubs at Walton, helping students before and after school and just coaching us on life.

I just wanted to post a shout out to all of the teachers I've had and say THANK YOU! And to the school board, please do the right thing and find other places to cut costs besides always putting the burden on our great teachers.
pleasehearthem
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May 16, 2013
http://www.cobbk12.org/board/video/ is the link to hear the teachers who got up to speak on Tuesday night. The 'Salary Hearing' was first, followed by the 'Public Forum May 14'. Each speaker was given 3-4 minutes so please take the time to hear what they have to say. Please don't make snide comments about teachers as this is an issue that is affecting all residents of Cobb County and the dire straits our school system is in. Thank you.
Concerned Taxpayer
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May 16, 2013
My concern is that Education is being sacrificed to pay for healthcare in this state. Our tax dollars would be better spent on education, as this is the one thing that will ensure better health. The more educated you are, the healthier you are as a rule.
Cobb Resident
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May 16, 2013
I have a novel idea on how to close the budget gap

1. Stop building, those new structures are not free. A building moritorium for 5 years would probably fix the budget woes.

2. Stop travelling for conferences and other meetings. USE a conference Call over the internet. That is free!

3. No more raises/bonuses for upper management, administrators!!!

4. Leave the seniors alone, they are on a fixed income and have paid their taxes for years. It is easy to attack them and then go spend a ton of money on a conference in Florida, hanging out buy the pool, telling people how great you are and having expensive dinners on the School's tab.

5. Responsible spending, if you do not have an extra $1,000,000.00 in the budget then do not remodel an existing school until the money is there. (Balance your checkbook)

6. Stop building, use what you have (I know I said that before but for CCSD they may have to read that twice. Get the wish list from each school and tell them NO!
Yourmisinformed
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May 16, 2013
Cobb Resident - you are misinformed. The new structures/buildings and their remodeling do not come out of the general budget. They are paid for with SPLOST funds. Stopping building will NOT help our current budget woes. Also - we need to take a CLOSE look at our tax structure. How many places in the United States do senior NOT pay taxes? Cobb County is the FIRST place I have lived (out of 4 states) where seniors are exempt from taxes. IF we continue to allow this practice, in the near future, we are going to have empty school buildings and a county of seniors. Then we will REALLY be in trouble. While the tax exemption for the seniors is honorable and a good idea - in practice it does not make sense for the future of our county.
John Galt
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May 16, 2013
No, the seniors should NOT be left alone. The typical U.S. household headed by a person age 65 or older has a net worth 47 times greater than a household headed by someone under 35, according to census data. They need to pay their fair share!
Kennesaw Resident
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May 16, 2013
Amy Jenson, Walton teacher, needs to STOP putting in 50 to 55 hours a week. As a taxpayer, I do not want to see teachers working those kind of hours. Forty-six should be the top and even then that should not be the norm.

Fifteen hours a week above 40, equates to an additional fourteen forty hours work weeks per school year.

STOP now Ms. Jenson!!!!!!
KingObama
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May 16, 2013
No you stop.

When should she grade? When should she prep for what she needs to teach that day - maybe while she's serving lunch duty? When should she make all the homework, quizzes and other assignments (no more math books in Cobb so teachers MAKE that stuff)? When should she see students who need extra help?

You're asking someone to do a 55 hour a week job in 46 hours - so the quality of education would suffer. "Teachers work less hours" is your solution? Please move to Atlanta City school district

Random HHS Teacher
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May 16, 2013
50-55, try 80 hours week.
Can't Win
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May 16, 2013
"Stop working 55 hour weeks..." This from the same public that demands that teacher pay be linked to evaluations which are in turn linked to test scores for students who are often 3 or more grade levels behind, come from homes with intense poverty, violence and drugs and are often apathetic at best. "Stop working so hard...but if you're kids don't all exceed standards you're out of a job" Yeah...sounds legit.
Cobb Teacher
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May 16, 2013
I’m not sure if you have a student in the system, but I would assume that, if you did, you would expect his/her teachers to: plan meaningful instruction for each course taught, grade the work your student completes, develop assessments, provide feedback so that your student may improve/learn, attend required trainings and professional development, be available for help for students before and after school, prepare for and attend faculty, county, and parent meetings, and respond to parent calls and emails, among a thousand other things….. In addition to these responsibilities, we obviously have to provide instruction the majority of the day. There are more than 100 extracurricular activities where I teach, most of which are sponsored by teachers who are not paid for their work, but do it because they love the kids and want to provide those opportunities. Tack on another SEVERAL hours per week for those involved in coaching, club activities, etc…. If you can provide some strategies and suggestions for teachers that involve doing our jobs well in only 40 hours per week, you can quit whatever job you have now because there are a lot of people who would pay a lot of money to hear your ideas.

Amy Jenson must be doing her job well because, frankly, I see no way to do this job in less than 50 hours/wk. With AP courses and large class sizes, many teachers have graded over 2,000 student essays this semester. I choose to do my job well, as many of the fabulous teachers in Cobb do, and I am not complaining about the amount of time that I CHOOSE to give these kids. I love what I do, but my concern, like most, is that I am simply not capable of doing it well if we continue to increase class sizes and cut teachers. Forget the teachers; it is not fair to the STUDENTS that they are no longer getting our best. If you have children in this system, it is my hope that they end up with teachers like Amy Jenson, who speak up for the good of the students, as well put in the additional time that is REQUIRED to be a good educator.

Amy Jenson
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May 16, 2013
I am certainly no exception! All of the good teachers I know work at least 50 hours a week.

With all due respect to the MDJ, there were a few things that were said at Tuesday's meeting that were misrepresented in this article - I encourage you to watch the videos at this link:

http://www.cobbk12.org/board/video/

(both the Salary Hearing and Budget videos)

Also to Mr. Anonymous (below), if you watch the videos you will hear that I in fact did work outside the teaching profession and was in management consulting for 13 years. I left as a Senior Manager and I certainly know what it is like in the competitive business world. I worked very hard then, and I work very hard now as a teacher. I love my teaching job. However, it is certainly not a "cushy" job like some may assume who have never been in this profession.
cobbmomof2
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May 16, 2013
Amy must not be a special education teacher if she's only working 50-55 hours a week. Special education teachers have to do all the planning and teaching like a general education teacher and in addition they have to do all the special education paperwork, attend mandated meetings that are held after school hours and have additional duties at school because they don't have homerooms. This special education teacher works nearly 70 hours a week and just had another paycut and increase in healthcare insurance. I make $12,000 a year less than the Cobb County website says they pay me because they haven't changed the pay chart to reflect all the pay cuts teachers have had in the past five years.
Pay Up Seniors
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May 16, 2013
It is time to go to legislators and ask them to reconsider the tax exemption for residents over 62. This is a special interest exemption for a population that already receives a disproportionate share of taxpayer resources.
Dixiechick59
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May 16, 2013
Yes some of us are a special interest group, you colossal jerk.

Having paid to educate other people's children for 35 years, while none of you freeloaders ever paid a dime to educate ours, you're absolutely right some of us are a special interest group.

Pay Up Seniors
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May 20, 2013
@Dixiechick59, you sure are childish for someone of your age.
anonymous
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May 16, 2013
This district has a billion dollar budget that continues to be not balanced on the backs of its emplyees, but there is no doubt in my mind there are ways to cut without harming teacher salaries.

How about some of the transportation perks they get, such as transporting their children or educating their children at CCSD schools when they live in other counties? Of course some of them suggest raising Cobb taxes...they don't live here, but in Paulding or Bartow! Have they looked at all the unnecessary costs associated with giving every special ed kid their own school bus? And seems as though assistant area supers (or whatever their title) simply lunch with principals all the time, yet have perks galore. Let's get rid of the cell phones, the cars, etc. and cut down on the fleet vehicles and unnecessary mileage driven by maintenance, etc. I can't believe they are so quick to say "raise taxes" when they simply need to quit giving schools new floors when they are NOT even necessary.
anonymous
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May 16, 2013
Get a committee of support staff to talk about potential too
IceDogg
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May 16, 2013
I have 2 daughters in an east Cobb high school. It seems they do absolutely nothing during the final 2 weeks of school. Well, they do watch a lot of movies I guess. How about closing the schools 2 weeks early, working up to the last day, and furlough the teachers for 10 days? They're just milking their jobs at this point.
not all
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May 16, 2013
In today's high school classes most teachers have to give an EOCT at the end of the year. These tests are sent to the state to be graded so they have to be given at the beginning of May to give the state time to grade them. This also means that all of the curriculum must be covered prior to testing. So by your thoughts if we cut out two weeks, we would just have to test two weeks earier. Good teachers continue to engage the studenst during this time. Maybe your adminstrators should be doing their jobs and correcting your childern's teachers. Not all teachers show movies, only the bad ones.
Or...
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May 16, 2013
The idea to elimante the last weeks of school is laughable. There will always be an "end" to a rope no matter how short you cut it and holding student attention after CRCT's and EOCT's is a struggle. The solution is not to eliminate weeks of school. The solution is to move the state tests to the last day of school! Look at how NYS administers the regents exams. Those kids remain in focused fear till the end!
Yes Cut IT
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May 16, 2013
Please please please get rid of the school tax exemption for those over 62! Please!! Phase it in, adding a year each year. That way when the elderly lose their exemption and sell their house and move to Poke or Bartow or Cherokee, we won't have a real estate issue, but over a period of time we can rid ourselves of this plague of racist old "i liked it back in the 1950s" jerks!
anonymous
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May 16, 2013
Agree 100% - cut out all travel and all professional development. There are plenty of opportunities for outside professional development, and I'd be willing to pick and chose and pay for my own.

As far as I'm concerned, if you don't give a grade to a student, the position needs to be looked at to see if it is a "want" or a "need." We are hearing 39 students per high school class.

The Community needs to decide if we want to continue to on this path to mediocrity, or move forward. If we want excellent schools, we have to pay for them. Our Cobb Delegation needs to hear from voters, and move accordingly to fully fund local education. I am tired of the QBE money going to other systems. Develop a sliding scale fee for seniors based on income.

Cobb Taxpayer
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May 16, 2013
The joke is 39 students per classroom. Teachers will only be able to maintain discipline. I can only wonder how much learning really goes on in a classroom with that many students.
Dr. Teresa
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May 16, 2013
GREAT ideas. I expected to hear outrage from Cobb tax payers when the MDJ reported that Gwinnette now is eligible for $65 million of Cobb's tax dollard through QBE, but none came. The Board had nothing to do with the Senior tax exemption and cannot remove it. The commissioners and the legislators did this while the Board tried to stop it. They did it to assure their re-elections, but not harm their budgets in any way. WHEN will the Cobb delegation take a pro-public education stance?
Lib in Cobb
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May 16, 2013
Teachers were at the "Breaking Point" before talks about salary cuts.
Common Sense
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May 16, 2013
When the economy gets better, Cobb will be screaming for quality and experienced teachers. Mark my words, many teachers will leave the profession or go to different school systems. How you treat your employees during the good times says one thing...how you treat your employees during bad times speaks volumes. And just telling your employees that they are lucky to have a job doesn't cut the quality leadership standard anymore.
anonymous
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May 16, 2013
I am sick and tired of teachers putting themselves on this pedestal that no other sits on but them. Everything that is said in this article about salary, etc. has already been felt for over a decade in other professions. Why should teachers be immune to what the majority of the country has already been facing for so many years?

The "take home pay" quoted here sounds like a mighty good deal to me for 9 months at most of work each year. I guess teachers didn't want to quote what they are actually paid for fear of being laughed out of town instead of getting sympathy.

I am probably stretching the truth by saying teachers work 9 months out of the year, which would be roughly 270 days. In a previous article, one educator said they are paid for 190 days WORKED (just over roughly 6 months of days) and another one said 175 days WORKED (just under 6 months of days). Teachers themselves throw skewed figures out there for fear the public at large will figure out how well they are actually paid in comparison to DAYS WORKED in the year.

Don't give me this crap, "I work 12 hours a day without getting paid for it." Well, so do I. Then there is the feeble argument "I should get paid so much an hour per pupil." Well, let me go tell my boss that when I lead a team of 50 people, I need to be paid 50 times my salary. Ha, ha.

ALL CEOs make enormous salaries compared to the worker bees. There is nothing different in your profession than there is in mine, except that I am not a prima donna that holds myself above and beyond all others. Quit complaining and quit whining. You have it very, very cushy in your profession. Join the world outside of educators and see what you will miss. You will miss plenty, so just shut up.
@ above
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May 16, 2013
You would think with such strong views, the above writer would be willing to put their name on this blog..... just saying
With respect
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May 16, 2013
Teachers are paid a "daily rate" based on a 180 day school year - this is public information and can be found on the www.cobbk12.org website. The hourly rate quoted in this article was based on the 180 school days, not the full calendar year.
@anonymous
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May 16, 2013
I'm sorry I left my cushy corporate job to become a teacher - I thought like you do, but I learned the hard way. I put in my letter of resignation and I'm going back to the awesome life of pharmaceutical sales, where the numbers of hours extra I choose to put in is reflected in my paycheck - where I can eat lunch and go to the bathroom when I want or need to - where I don't have anyone but my boss and my clients to answer to - I could go on, but you get the point. Teaching looks really great from the outside looking in, but the grass isn't greener on this side - it's dead and painted over. Corporate America - I'm coming back!! And I'm taking my SCIENCE DEGREE with me!
I Dare You
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May 16, 2013
I dare you to teach in a Cobb school for even one day, especially on the south side of the county. Imagine trying to teach 40 middle school children per class all day long, with 10 of those students who barely speak English and another 10 of those students with special needs. I bet you'll have a much greater appreciation for what our teachers do all day, if you don't run screaming from the building by lunch time. Try it,I dare you!
Dr. Teresa
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May 16, 2013
National stats show that teachers are paid the lowest salary among all jobs that require a college degree and less than many jobs that do not require a college degree. Hard to argue with that and it does not account for the hrs over 40 that are done. Teaching is a job that CANNOT be done properly in 40 hrs a week. Anyone who attempts to do it in 40 hrs gets fired for neglect of duty. You would be stunned at the list of required duties that MUST be done outside the 40 hr limit.
So you're a leader?
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May 16, 2013
Your words bro not mine, "let me go tell my boss that when I lead a team of 50 people, I need to be paid 50 times my salary". These are ADULTS that WANT to follow and who see the benefits of following and the consequences of not following. THERE IS NO COMPARISON. Middle school students are not following Mr. Teacher. They are following #daniel.tosh on twitter!
@@anonymous
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May 16, 2013
good choice. no one is making you teach
Anonymous read!
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May 16, 2013
I worked for Coca-Cola in the food division and left when I was offered a job as a teacher. I can tell you that teaching is way more challenging than any corporate position. CCSD teachers work the summer months preparing for the next school year. These hours we spend on next school year are not paid. In addition, we attend trainings and have team meetings which are not paid for by the district. We could easily not do these things but would hear the public complaining that the teachers are not prepared. We received a 2% pay cut years ago, and since that time have received furlough days, an increase in our portion of benefits ($200 per month between last year and this year), and increased class sizes. We have many teachers leaving the profession or going to other districts. The county has to raise the millage rate. Scamihorn suggested calling our legislators who do not give a hoot. Taxes must go up and the county needs to be serious and get rid of area superintendents. We don't need professional development money and should rid of the perks. The whole situation is sad because people like you do not understand the teaching profession. I challenge you to become a teacher!
@anonymous
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May 16, 2013
This is actually to "@@anonymous" addressing my other comment - you're right, "no one is making" me teach. I'm lucky I have something else I can do, and do well. What should concern you is that I am the type of candidate that people claim they want: actual degree in my subject, high GPA, good with the students & parents. My evaluations have all been excellent (though in educationalese it's merely "proficient").

I thought teaching would be fun and a great way to give back - the summers off would be a bonus. The reality is that it's far tougher than you can ever imagine and being a student does not make you an expert in running a classroom.

How will Cobb attract strong candidates if they can't keep the ones they have?
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