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Thread: Important Issue for School Committee

  1. #1
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    Mar 2011
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    Default Important Issue for School Committee

    While looking at the Mass Department of Elementary and Secondary Education website,
    ( http://finance1.doe.mass.edu/statistics ) I found some interesting information on the average salaries of teachers over the past several years. For FY07 Wayland was $64,037, Weston was $70,617, and Wellesley was $69,784. Three years later in FY10 the data was Wayland: $83,865, Weston: $79,051, Wellesley: $73,927. A 31% increase in 3 years for Wayland (FY10 is the latest data available on the website). Thus in FY07 we were about $6,000 less than those other towns and three years later we were $5,000 more than Weston and $10,000 more than Wellesley. If we had been able to keep average salaries in line with those other towns (based on around 200 teaching positions at the time) it would have freed up about 1-2 $million that could have been used for reducing class size, improved curriculum, and/or tax reduction.
    It is important that whoever is elected on April 5th that the full School Committee looks into how other neighboring towns seem better able to control average salary cost while maintaining high quality school systems.
    I also believe that historical and projected average salaries should be presented to the town as part of the budget presentations and discussions.

  2. #2
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    Nov 2005
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    Let's take it all in context.

    I agree that we need to prudently manage our costs and costs/student, but I'm not sure the comparison you've created is entirely fair. You choose a year, perhaps at random, that had an odd "dip" in Wayland salaries, and therefore made the years beyond look like they had more inflation than perhaps they really did.

    I don't know what was with that 2007 datapoint, but that year, Wayland was the only one of the three towns that had a lower salary than the year before. If we go back to the start of the data posted for salaries (which is 2004), we can see that Wayland has had a 27% increase (from 2004-2010), and Weston also had a 27% increase while Wellesley had a 16% increase. Other area towns are:
    Acton: 37%
    Bedford: 30%
    Carlisle: 32%
    Concord: 53%
    Framingham: 36%
    Lincoln: 21%
    Natick: 22%
    Sudbury: 29%
    Concord-Carlisle: 38%
    L-S: 34%

    We are slightly higher in salary than these other towns (with the exception of Concord & Carlisle, which get a little hard to tease out accurately because of their Regional High School, but theirs are just about the same taken in total).

    But our per-pupil costs are lower than most of them:

    Weston: 18,591
    Concord: 16,438
    L-S 16,323
    Bedford: 15,964
    Framingham 15,675
    Wellesley 15,391
    Wayland 15,219
    Acton: 13,110
    Natick 12,909

    And then L-S and C-C that we could aggregate if we wanted, but here are the raw #s

    HS Only
    L-S 16,323
    C-C 18,872

    K-8 only:
    Lincoln: 21,811, Sudbury 11,801 [this seems weird...]
    Concord: 16,438, Carlisle: 15,181

  3. #3
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    Mar 2011
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    Default Important Issue for School Committee

    The reason I picked the FY07 to FY10 time frame it that it's the most recent data available and FY08, FY09, FY10 are when the big increases stated. Also note the budget is really determined a year earlier (i.e. FY107 in 2006). If we look at the years FY04 to FY07 the average salaries were fairly stable staying within about $1500 of the FY04 number, but did decrease from $65,877 in FY04 to $64,037 in FY07.

    The reason I use Weston and Wellesley for comparison it that I though they were local equivalent highly rated school systems that had done a good job. It true one can find other school systems that had large increases in last few years, but I think we should try to emulate the best performing systems not the poor performers.

    As far as per pupil cost these can be reduced by larger class sizes, reduce course options and/or other cuts that could effect the quality of education.

    Finally, no matter what starting point you use as of FY10 our average salaries were significantly higher that Weston and Wellesley requiring funds that might have been better spent in other ways.

  4. #4
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    Wayland MA
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    Good conversation!

    FYI, a few years ago, I tried to get to the bottom of the 2007 "dip," but was never able to figure it out. Given the consistent moderate salary increases and moderate retirements that we've had over the last 6+ years, there's nothing that I can find to explain such a dramatic shift other than some sort of DESE calculation oddity.

    Regarding quality of education, reducing course options doesn't save much money unless you also increase class sizes as a result. Except in a few spots around the edges, our course offerings haven't changed. Wayland's class sizes have been climbing slowly over time, but nothing dramatic. As the Superintendent's recent Town Crier column spells out, there really isn't research that shows that lower class sizes lead to better educational outcomes. Philanthropist Bill Gates (I forget, where'd he earn his money, anyway? [grin]) agrees, saying that better trained teachers trump smaller class sizes.

    That said, as a parent, I'd certainly prefer my child to be in a smaller class rather than a larger one, all else being equal. And as a teacher, I'd prefer smaller classes as well. But that's instinct, not anything that's demonstrated to add value.

  5. #5
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    Wayland MA
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    Mr. Schuler, it's disappointing that you saw fit to use this evening's "Ask the Candidates, Live" call-in show to repeat your comparison of our current average salary to that of the "aberrant" FY2007 figure despite the information that you received here in advance of the program.

    Since you took the time and initiative to find and navigate the DESE web site, I imagine that you are also able to grasp that average salary is only one component of the more important cost metric, Per Pupil Expenditure. On this measure, Wayland ranks well below Weston and in a virtual tie with Wellesley. Tied for 5th out of the 10 peer district tells a different and more representative story.

    Fortunately, School Committee members Barb Fletcher and Louis Jurist did excellent jobs explaining how average salaries and salary schedules are different, the former factoring in what is likely Wayland's greater teacher experience and education relative to its peers.

  6. #6
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    The reason I asked the question is that two of the candidates running for reelection were on the School Committee during the time that things started to really change. Starting about 5 years ago we first had an increase of 17 teaching positions follow by 3 years of even greater decreases totaling 46 positions. Meanwhile average salaries were increasing 31% and total salary cost went from $15,493,817 in FY07 to 16,405,343 in FY10 even though we reduced by 46 positions. We also decided to move grades 1-5 out of Loker mainly to save money (see my post “Did Moving grades 1-5 out of Loker Really Save Money”).

    I think it is important that we understand what happened as voter, but even more importantly as member of the School Committee so that they make better decisions going forward. Besides asking questions last night I have also talked one on one to some member of the School Committee, but generally found the answers only partially complete and/or heading in the wrong direction. This may be because they haven’t fully analyzed the effects of past decisions. As past is prolog to the future we don’t really what to see another 31% increase in average salaries over a 3 year period and/or major reduction is staff not consistent with reduction in enrollment.
    Keeping cost per student in the mid-range of other top schools is a worthy goal, but if our salary cost are higher it might be that we are short changing our student is other areas. I like to see both average salary and per student costs in the mid-range while education results are above mid-range. That would be doing a really great job.

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