Friday, May 25, 2012

Sometimes you’re the fiddle, sometimes you’re the bow..


Well, well, well; it’s been more than a week since we last posted on this deep subject.  Since that post, our most recent efforts have garnered significant ‘idiotic’ ratings, which is a good thing in our view.  It means we’re striking a nerve out there in readership land. 

We only wish those who enter the idiotic ratings had the courage of their convictions, and posted a comment to which we or others could respond.  Drive by ratings aren’t particularly useful in advancing the discussion.

The essence of the prior post is this:

Simply stated, the highest priority of the Brunswick School Department is giving automatic salary increases to the teachers every year, along with paying for 90% or so of the cost increases in their very generous benefit plans, generous beyond anything in the private sector.

We provided cogent substantiation for our view, which is why, we are sure, so many new idiotic ratings were entered.  These readers could not refute our logic, so they acted like little spoiled brats by calling us names.  How adult!

Given all the frothing, fretting, and pontificating about excellence in our school system, about which we’ve written extensively, we’d like someone in the BCU crowd to get back to us with a coherent explanation of how prioritizing teacher salary increases above all else protects and advances school excellence.  Surely the schoolies have thought this through, or they could call upon their Professorial mentor to help them out. 

And then there’s our sincere real estate sales professional, always a reliable source for evaluating the quality of town services for prospective home-buyers.  She’s been getting lots of free exposure on the community TV channel with her regular appearances to plug higher school spending.  Surely SHE can tell us how higher teacher salaries ensure school excellence.

“Oh, yes, isn’t this a lovely garden, and look at the rustic and cozy kitchen; why it’s a perfect blank slate to build your very own dream.  And did you know Brunswick just gave their teachers three more years of 5% average annual salary increases, with no merit ratings involved?  You can’t get any more excellent schools than that!  Now lets put together your offer!”

We also reported here that we apparently have an active volunteer corps at the elementary school level.  On that front, we again call upon our devoted schoolies to chime in with useful specifics.  What we’d really like to know is what percentage of the volunteered hours is spent handling busy work for the teachers, like making, collating, and stapling copies, and what percentage is spent actually helping with instruction in the classrooms? 

Providing office clerk services is nothing to be sneezed at, but it doesn’t say much for drawing upon all the expertise available in this town, does it?  And we’re damn sure no self-respecting Bowdoin prof would lower himself to such drudgery.

We’ve learned as well that there is a Student Activity Fund at one of the elementary schools, at least, managed by a group of community volunteers.  Funds appear to be raised by the usual methods: kids selling things to adults, bottle collections, box top collections and the like.

We would expect such funds to be used to supplement the budgets of our cash starved schools by paying for field trips and other special experiences.  It appears, however, that significant funds are given to teaching staff for undesignated purposes.  In the case of our newest school, this approaches $10,000 per year.

We have two questions: since we’re in the habit of giving the teachers 4% and more in annual salary increases ($2,000 and up), regardless of merit or achievement, is it really necessary and acceptable to have ‘the children’ raise even more funds to give to the teachers?  Secondly, just what are the strings attached to these dollar appropriations?  Is giving the teachers a cash sum really the best way to ensure funds are being used for educational purposes?  How does one know that amounts being raised are helping kids learn better, rather than being used for personal purposes?

We’ll look once again for the schoolies over at BCU to come to our rescue with answers, because inquiring minds want to know.  At least they should want to know, shouldn’t they?

The reason we put so much confidence in the BCU groupies is because they’ve recently shown their concerns for such matters on the BCU Facebook page.  Turns out they’ve been chatting up a storm about the new flat screen TV in the Stowe School lobby. One went so far as to say it made her sick to her stomach.  (She should spend some time talking to us; we’d have her retching her guts inside out in no time at all.)

And there are comments about the movie watching taking place on white boards and in the computer lab. 

Lordy, lordy; we can see the real estate ads now: “buy this lovely home in Brunswick, where your children will see the best movies in our schools, reflecting the personal effort that has always defined excellence in education here in Perfect.”

Pass the rosin please, Rosie.

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