School principals should keep experienced teachers on staff

By Bob Harris

The city Department of Education, in its attempt to improve city schools, has instituted fiscal policies which are causing negative problems for teachers, who they are supposed to be employing and giving a satisfying career experience.

The DOE decided to make schools function better by giving principals a budget so they could institute programs to help children learn better. But there are certain fixed school costs and there is only so much money available to do innovative things unless grants are obtained.

The DOE requires teachers to obtain a master’s and gives them a raise for the time and expense of getting this degree, plus 30 points above the degree. This makes salaries high and there are bonuses for staying 20 or 30 years because an experienced teacher is valuable to the functioning of a school.

The problem is some ambitious principals who want extra money to do things are observing older teachers and giving them “U” (unsatisfactory) ratings to make them so unhappy they will retire so younger teachers can be hired at lower starting salaries. Teachers who receive “U” observation reports cannot write rebuttals to attach to the observation of their lesson. Imagine what this does to morale and spirit.

Another DOE policy is to close schools found to not meet their standards, which can be confusing since the city and state sometimes evaluate schools differently. Some teachers stay in the newly created school, some are told to go find their own job.

In other schools, the student population goes down so teachers are excessed and told to find their own jobs. Some of these teachers have been teaching for several years and another principal often does not want to take an older teacher who is paid a higher salary.

A solution was to let these teachers stay in their old schools as substitute teachers. The problem here was that outside substitutes received less money due to health benefits that these older substitute teachers receive.

Recently, newspapers started attacking teachers who were substituting inside a school, saying they were receiving more money than day−to−day substitutes.

Finally, after the United Federation of Teachers defended these excessed teachers with photos and printed biographies about them the DOE decided to pay schools who hired these teachers the difference between a starting teacher’s salary and what these older teachers get paid. This had been the policy of the old city Board of Education.

New is not always better. It is sad these teachers have been insulted by newspapers, saying they were being paid too much money as substitutes when it was DOE policies which put them in that situation and not anything they did wrong.

GOOD AND BAD NEWS OF THE WEEK: Trials are taking place to decide if tenants and a building manager and the company he works for is guilty of the murder of two firemen Jan. 23, 2005, in the Bronx. Apparently, two tenants in the apartment house cut up their apartments into numerous rooms.

Due to the smoke from the fire, the firemen were lost in the maze of illegal rooms and could not find the fire escape. They had to jump out a window and landed 50 feet below in a cement courtyard. Two died and two were badly injured but survived. Firemen had not been issued personal safety ropes back then, although new fire resistant ropes are now standard equipment.

One cause of this tragedy was that the city Department of Buildings had not detected this illegal construction — or conversion, as experts call it. There are too many impediments stopping the DOB from entering houses and finding this type of illegal construction and then punishing those who did the illegal things and having them removed.

This column has advocated finding illegal construction and punishing those who did it and then stating in the media the names of those punished and what their punishment was. Without strong punishment, illegal construction will continue and people will be injured or die.

Years ago, we commented on the illegal basement rooms in houses opposite St. John’s University. These warren−like rooms are potential disasters, since people cook on hot plates in them and use extension cords. I suppose many illegal rooms in houses around St. John’s University are still there since I have not read of any being removed.

You can usually tell which houses are rented out since there is just dirt on the ground. At least that is better than bricks or cement. We will let you know what happens during the Bronx trial.

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