Archive for Thursday, November 3, 2005

Find a way

November 3, 2005

I've been an art teacher in this district for 26 years. It's time I said some things about education in Eudora. I want to say these things to supporters of the Eudora schools so you have something to think about before the Eudora Board of Education holds its next meeting Nov. 10.

When I came to Eudora, we had an old school that needed replacing. Along with other teachers, I worked to promote the passing of a bond for better facilities. We knew then that money from the general fund -- which is the source of teacher salaries -- would be diverted to help with capital outlay expenses, including facilities. However, as teachers, we felt like we needed better schools, and over the course of many years, Eudora schools got better and better. We now have state-of-the-art buildings and technology.

But the consequence of years and years of spending money on facilities has been a steady erosion in teacher salaries, a position recently acknowledged as true by the Eudora Board of Education.

I believe it is now time to stop allocating funds for facilities and make up the gap in teacher salaries. We are way behind other area schools and we are getting worse. Here is just one discouraging example: I recently found out that I could be making $8,000 a year more had I chosen to teach in Wellsville 26 years ago. Think about that. $8,000 more in Wellsville? I simply find it hard to believe that citizens of Eudora can look at the city of Wellsville and find this acceptable.

But Wellsville isn't the only area school that has separated itself from the Eudora schools. Most people in the community probably realize now that Eudora teachers have lagged in the area of health insurance. However, many people don't know that teachers right up the road in De Soto not only receive more money toward health insurance but they also get dental, life, and disability insurance -- all paid for by the De Soto school district.

I can compare Eudora schools to area schools in many different ways, but one more comparison really stands out. Just look at the fact that teachers at Eudora High School were recently praised for meeting the State Standard of Excellence in four different categories, a distinction that has been met by only a handful of Kansas schools. The district as a whole, in fact, brought home a remarkable nine state standard of excellence awards.

I know Eudora teachers and building principals are proud of the achievements throughout the district, but I wonder how many district patrons believe that our efforts should be so poorly rewarded. Is it any wonder that teacher morale is at an all-time low?

Is it any wonder that teachers continue to be discouraged when the school board negotiations team admits to being informed about the budget? Personally, I'd like to see our superintendent attend one of the bargaining sessions to lend a seriousness to the Board's intentions.

Let me end this on a personal note and by making a personal request. My wife Crystal and I have made our lives in Eudora. I have taught children and coached athletes for over a quarter of a century in Eudora, and Crystal has supported the schools in countless and thankless ways as our two kids progressed through the Eudora schools. We are proud to say our kids are graduates of EHS, and we feel like they received an excellent education here because of the great teachers we have. It is time now for the Board to commit to improving conditions for those of us who have spent years doing the best we can for the students of Eudora.

The Board of Education will meet again Nov. 10 to consider teacher contracts. My personal request is this: If you get a chance to visit with a USD 491 school board member over the next week, consider asking them to find a way to bring our teachers up to par with area schools.

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