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Teachers’ pay is hard-earned and well-deserved

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I listened with interest to the discussion of the Roane County School Board at its monthly meeting last week, but was even more interested in comments within the crowd.
When the salaries of the teachers and other instructional staff were mentioned, a gentleman sitting near me pointed out that teachers in Roane County are paid the 15th highest rate in the state.
I detected some disdain in his voice.
I wanted to stand up a shout, “You bet they are, and they deserve every penny and more!”
As the principal of Kingston Elementary School, I would like to share a bit of information regarding the teaching staff at my school.
I feel that an informed public can make responsible choices about spending, the value of programs, and the importance of these programs when given factual information. So here goes.
At Kingston Elementary for this past school year:
1) The educational level includes all teachers with a minimum of a bachelor’s begree (as required by the State of Tennessee) with approximately 35 percent percent holding a master’s degree and 9 percent percent having achieved more than 30 collegiate hours past a master’s degree, approximately 32 percent having achieved an educational specialist degree and one teacher who has obtained a doctorate.
2) The average experience level of a teacher was almost 18 years, ranging from the most recently hired (four years) to the most seasoned veteran (more than 30 years).
3) The average amount of in-service credit (meaning work and training obtained during summer months and during off time) for a teacher was a little more than 41 hours (30 are worked into the schedule and the rest are generally unpaid). This means that the Kingston Elementary staff donated more than 500 documented man hours toward training and service to the school system.
4) Every teacher (100 percent) taught an area in which the distinction of “highly qualified” by the State of Tennessee Department of Education was earned, either through education and experience or successful completion of a Praxis Examination for specific subject areas and in general knowledge.
5) Every educational assistant (100 percent) has obtained certification as a paraprofessional by completing a rigorous testing program as outlined by the Tennessee Department of Education. Several educational assistants and attendants within the special education department have complete bachelor’s degrees, and choose to work in these positions, mostly because of personal missions and a strong belief that children are the most important work to be done in their lifetime.
6) Every year for the past several years, Kingston Elementary has been sought out by the University of Tennessee, and some years by Lincoln Memorial University, Tusculum College, South College, Tennessee Technological University, as well as others, to be utilized as a training ground and placement for student interns and student teachers. The expressed goal for this training is to allow students within the university system to see teaching excellence first hand, to work side by side with a teacher who knows how to facilitate learning in children, and to practice methods that will allow for teaching excellence to continue in practice. There have been no less than six interns in the building at any given time for the past several years.
I could go on, but for the sake of brevity, I will end by saying that I have always evaluated spending by looking at the return on the monies that are spent.
Yes, our teachers are paid better than many in the state, but the Roane County Board of Education is getting their money’s worth at Kingston Elementary School, as indicated by these numbers.
There is no other profession that requires more in terms of work outside of the paid workday, in-service training during off hours, advanced degrees to move significantly on the pay scale, or sometimes little recognition for a job well done.
I would put up my faculty against any in this state in terms of dedication to children and to their jobs to education children.
I have a bright, energetic, dedicated, concerned and caring group of teachers who deserve so much more than they receive each day for the job that they do.
I daresay that many other schools in Roane County can boast similar statistics, and before we make a hasty statement that a group may not be deserving, why not at least look objectively at the facts regarding that group.
Sheila Sitzler
Kingston