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Why Are There No Teachers in Kettering Schools Who Earn $200,000 Per Year — Or Even More?

Kettering School’s “Blue Ribbon Report” is a regular publication of Kettering Schools, paid for with local tax money. About half of this Spring’s issue is dedicated to giving a one-sided view of why voters should approve the 6.9 mill school tax proposal that is on the May 4 ballot.

The Report fails to explain that:

  • Because of a decrease in total property value in Kettering, the effective rate of property taxes needed to support Kettering Schools is increasing — from last year to this year by 2.34% – even if no new school tax levies are approved.
  • 86% of the budget for Kettering Schools goes to personnel and the need for 6.9 additional mills of tax is based on a five year budget projection (below) that shows, in the last three years of the five year projection, increases of 4.82%, each year, for personnel.
  • Teachers in Kettering now earn, on average, $63,839 each year, with generous health and retirement benefits, and recent administrator contracts averaged $103,000, each year.

I am proud to live in a school district, that, through long tradition, pays its teachers and administrators well. I feel, however, a strong school district in a democracy must have transparency. I just think the school board, via its tax supported school publications, should be up front with the public.

I’m all in favor of paying teachers well. After all, I was a teacher for 30 years. It would make a good discussion, I think, to consider the question: “Why, in Kettering Schools, are there no teachers who earn $200,000, or more?” We live in an era when top professionals often earn much more than $200,000 each year. Wouldn’t it be desirable to create a system of public education where at least some teachers could earn top professional level salaries?  For my book, “Kettering Public Education In The Year 2022: How Do We Get To A Great Future?”, I’m analyzing what a system might look like that would attract and develop top talent to its fullest potential.

There are a lot of good questions about system reform that are never asked, because it is assumed that the current system will go on forever and forever. The idea that the present system could work to find and reward top talent in some new way is exhausting to consider. The basic premise of the 6.9 mill tax proposal, reported in the Blue Ribbon Report, is that the system will continue as it is — bureaucratic, hierarchical — embedded in tradition, encoded in master contracts that seek to assure teacher equality.

According to W. Edwards Deming, who, Warned Against “Remodeling The Prison,” in every organization, overall system structure is the key to quality. What is needed, I feel, is a system that redefines teacher professionalism and teacher opportunity. But efforts to accomplish such change via bureaucratic processes is likely to fail. We need to consider redesigning public education from a market point of view.  The point is to create a system that empowers teachers to find new creativity, excellence, and energy — to build a new standard of what it means to be a professional teacher.  Such a system, would likely be more free market, more entrepreneurial — less bureaucratic, hierarchical.

As I walked neighborhoods, this past autumn, in my school board election effort, I heard a lot of good reports about Kettering Schools from parents and students. Many expressed to me their appreciation for a great education from caring teachers. Kettering Schools, I feel, deserves voter support. But, in my judgment, Kettering public education is not good enough. I believe, even in districts deemed “excellent,” with lots of good reports, public education needs transformation.

Superintendent, Dr. Jim Schoenlein, on page 1 in the Report, writes about, “preparing our kids to thrive in the new economy, developing into creative, innovative, high-level thinkers,” and I agree this is a great goal. The problem is, the present system does not have the capacity to accomplish this goal. The current system is not structured to accomplish top quality and the cost of maintaining the current system is increasing in a manner that cannot be sustained.

Dr. Schoenlein, in my view, finds himself the captain of a huge ship that is headed in the wrong direction. And, this 6.9 mill levy campaign seems all about finding the fuel needed to keep the ship headed in the same direction, not about using new energy to change direction.

The purpose of Kettering school district, at present, is the same as every other school district — to be deemed “excellent,” according to a governmental bureaucratic definition of excellence. The problem is, “schools of distinction” are failing to produce the creative, high-level thinkers Dr. Schoenlein writes about, and tinkering with the present system cannot possibly work to do much better.

“Excellent” schools, deemed so by the state of Ohio, are failing to produce the thoughtful and engaged citizens our democracy needs, and further gearing up the tests scores is not the answer. Everyone needs to remember that the original purpose of the state testing system was to define minimum standards and even today, the state testing system is still focused on minimum standards.  These tests make no pretense to be indicators of high level thinking or creativity.

During the board election campaign last fall, the League of Women Voters asked each candidate to answer this question: “What Are The Biggest Challenges Facing The Kettering School System?” I wrote, in part, “Public education needs transformation. To achieve 21st century quality, we must stop simply replicating the present system. Authentic change is rare, because it is not easy. It requires leadership and strong community support.”

I keep quoting David Matthews, who writes in his book, “Reclaiming Public Education by Reclaiming Our Democracy,” that, “We must have the public we need before we can have the schools we want.” To improve education, Matthews argues, there must be a more engaged, more informed, more active public. In short, to improve education we must improve our democracy.

I’m happy to live in Kettering, because it is a great community. It is exactly the type of community that should be able to make a big breakthrough in showing the way to how to transform public education. It’s a community where democracy, at least, is awake and where democracy, I believe, can be vitalized.

Kettering is a community that should be a leader in public education. For Kettering to be a leader in public education we need an informed and engaged community. Tax money spent on preparing general school publications, like the Blue Ribbon Report, should have as its mission to inform, not to persuade.

The needed transformation of public education will not come from within the current system.  The current system is all about replicating itself.  Transformation of public education must come from the proper functioning of a strong democratic community. This proposal to the Kettering public — that we should voluntarily raise school property tax by 6.9 mills — offers a good opportunity for discussion about developing a long term plan for system transformation. In the short term, it is hard for a big system to change direction. But Kettering Schools, I believe, could and should develop a long term plan with two purpose:

  • to decrease cost, and,
  • to make a big leap in quality and purpose.

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10 comments to Why Are There No Teachers in Kettering Schools Who Earn $200,000 Per Year — Or Even More?

  • Eric

    There are a lot of good questions about system reform that are never asked

    In testimony in Columbus, the OEA President cited Governor Strickland’s “comprehensive review” of Ohio’s system. You could make an open records request for that review and contribute your insights.

    Remodeling The Prison

    Perhaps that’s what Governor Strickland has in mind for Ohio. You should check out his plans and decide for yourself, since Columbus–and certainly no one from Kettering–will be calling the plays.

    Dr. Schoenlein, in my view, finds himself the captain of a huge ship that is headed in the wrong direction.

    Given the choice between Dr. Schoenlein and Governor Strickland, who would you trust with the future of Kettering’s schoolchildren?

    “Excellent” schools, deemed so by the state of Ohio, are failing to produce the thoughtful and engaged citizens our democracy needs …

    If producing “the thoughtful and engaged citizens our democracy needs” were incorporated into Ohio’s social studies standards, perhaps Ohio’s schools would do a better job. In general, people tend not to do well at tasks they aren’t asked to do, don’t know how to do, and have never seen done before. A good start at fixing this might include an anser to “By what method can public educatio produce the thoughtful and engaged citizens our democracy needs?”

    I keep quoting David Matthews…

    Governor Strickland’s plan doesn’t include Ohioans benefiting from the work of the Kettering Foundation. The current social studies revision provides an opportunity to highlight the importance of the Kettering Foundation’s work and the severity of its omission from the standards.

    The needed transformation of public education will not come from within the current system.

    But the transformaion we’re getting comes from Columbus and the National Education Association. If that’s not the one you think we need, become informed and speak up.

    Transformation of public education must come from the proper functioning of a strong democratic community.

    Yet another reason to fix high school civics first.

  • Mike Bock

    Eric, Thanks for giving this post a careful read. I want to put the content of this post into a better form and submit it as an article or letter to the Kettering Oakwood Times.

    A short google search turned up a request by The Ohio Council for the Social Studies, dated February 8, 2010, that “the Ohio State Board of Education delay the implementation of the revised social studies content standards for one year.”

    The Council writes, “We are now at the end of the public input process and believe the only way avert the implementation of flawed standards is to work through the Ohio State Board of Education and the Ohio General Assembly.”

    I also found the draft of the Proposed High School Social Studies Course Syllabi! Its preface explains that it has syllabi for five high school social studies courses: American History, World History, American Government, Economics/Financial Literacy and Contemporary World. Each contains a course theme and broad topics which are further clarified with content statements.

    The preface says, “The social studies standards directly address the 21st century skills of civic literacy, financial and economic literacy and global awareness. Links to other 21st century skills, such as problem solving, communication, media literacy and leadership, will be more fully developed in the model curriculum (due to be completed by March 2011).”

    The idea of specifying standards is a good idea, and I’d like to know more about what exactly is bothering the Ohio Council of Social Studies about the current standards proposal. But the real issue is “By What Method?’ will these standards be implemented. What is the school structure and the school culture where these standards could be best implemented and how is such structure and culture achieved? The standards themselves are a fairly small part of the puzzle.

    In Ohio, at least in theory, we still have local control of public education, and, if a local community, via their local board, wanted to exert local control there would be a lot of options available. What those options are and how a local board might work to maximize local control, and what the point of such effort might be, are all questions that I want to research for my book, “Kettering Public Education In the Year 2022.” It seems clear to me, the transformation we need in public education will not come from decisions and actions at the top of the pyramid, but rather from the grass roots.

  • Eric

    the only way avert the implementation of flawed standards is to work through the Ohio State Board of Education and the Ohio General Assembly.

    It’s good to know the OCSS has taken this position. Thanks.

    the transformation we need in public education will not come from decisions and actions at the top of the pyramid, but rather from the grass roots.

    … as if decisions at the top don’t redirect necessary resources and upend local progress?

  • Robert Vigh

    Teachers are already over paid in Kettering.

  • Eric

    Teachers are already over paid in Kettering.

    Doesn’t that depend on the results they get? How would a levy voter objectively assess the value Kettering City Schools return for a tax dollar?

  • jesse

    Eric,

    How would an “investor” objectively assess the value of the organization and the products produced? How about…a free market?

  • Eric

    How about…a free market?

    If unionized school employees want to keep their jobs, they might demonstrate return on investment superior to non-union free market alternatives. It’s not my job to change Robert’s (or Mike’s) mind.

    High school civics needs to address the difference between ensuring an informed electorate to sustain democracy and plundering the public treasury. If civics teachers aren’t prepared for that task, their union has economists and others who might have qualifications to address cost-benefit of unionized labor in public education.

    Or are you suggesting ferrell union goons have set about plundering the public treasury with the blessing of the Democratic Party so long as votes are delivered regardless of the duties of citizenship taught in public schools? That would be a “dangerous state of civic knowledge that ought draw sufficient attention to get civics standards improved.

  • jesse

    Eric,

    I always appreciate your bringing “it” back to education. However, not all issues are solved by “informed” people voting on stuff. The model by which we educate is wrong. That is, however, a minor concern as compared to the abridgment of the rights of the individual. It is my contention that you can not have a “publicly funded”, “compulsory” education system that can provide a basis for the correct understanding of the rights of individuals. Essentially, it isn’t what they teach, how they teach it, or who it is that teaches it; it is that the system is a direct violation of the rights of individuals and is, hence, impossible to “fix.” It must be allowed to, as should the banks, fail. The resources need to be reallocated to a more productive use.

  • Eric

    my contention … education system … .

    How does a free market support selection among the following texts:
    <a href="http://www.historyisaweapon.com/zinnapeopleshistory.html"A Peoples' History of the United States
    A Patriot’s History of the United States
    Inventing America (i.e. an inventor’s history…)
    The Oxford History of the United States
    Rothbard (i.e. a libertarian’s history …)

    Which of the above texts promotes “correct understanding of the rights of individuals?” What mechanisms support its selection?

  • jesse

    Every school picks its own text or texts. Parents decide to which school to send their child. Colleges decide which children are best prepared to be educated. Businesses decide which young adults are best prepared to participate usefully in society. Consumers decide which businesses provide the best service or products for the best price. Everyone acts from their knowledge and selects the best available.

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