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Teacher Inks 3-Year, $850-K Pact With Regional

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I was dreaming the other day that I read in the paper about John Smith, a local high-school history teacher, who had signed a three-year, $850,000 contract to stay on at Regional High School.

"He can really do it all," said his principal yesterday at a news conference held in the cafeteria. "He's great two ways--in the classroom and during lunchroom duty. We feel he's worth every penny that we're giving him."

Smith, who told reporters earlier in the week that he was going to let his old contract run out and test his worth in the private-school market, seemed pleased with the new deal that reportedly contains a deferred-salary arrangement, an interest-free loan on a New Hampshire ski chalet, and reduced rates on school lunches.

"I wanted to keep an open mind on the private-school offers," said Smith, who looked tan and refreshed after spending his Christmas break in Barbados. "But I'm glad that the school committee saw fit to meet my contract demands--I've always hoped that I could finish my career here in New England."

When asked if he thought teachers' salaries had reached a ridiculous and unjustified new high, Smith explained that for most teachers, the days of earning the really big money were relatively short when compared to the average worker.

"We suffer a lot more stress on a daily basis and the burnout rate in the profession usually means a short career pattern. I have several colleagues who have had to take positions as designated substitutes and they're lucky if they can get a hundred grand a year."

One reporter reminded Smith that it was only a few years ago that teachers were among the lowest paid professionals in the United States, and layoffs were so common that few people were interested in planning a career in education.

Smith tucked his copy of Town and Country under his arm and scratched his ear thoughtfully. "I know what you're saying," he said. "But that was before the days of all the government studies on education. Now we have no-cut contracts and 10-to-1 student-teacher ratios.

"Since they instituted the 'Ten and Five' Rule--10 years in the profession and five in the same school system--we can exercise a veto over any assignment that we don't like, we've got some security now. It's made a lot more people decide to look into teaching as a career."

The superintendent of Regional High was asked if there were any other teachers close to signing new contracts.

"Well, it's early yet," he said. "But I can tell you that we've had meetings with Stanley Terkle, our newest math teacher, and we've made what we feel is a fair offer. Without getting into details, the package has some excellent cash incentives spread over a five-year period. Also we're guaranteed an option clause that says he can take a sabbatical at any time during the length of the contract without loss of pay.

"If we can sign him, we plan to build our curriculum around him," the superintendent continued. "His agent is supposed to get back to us later in the week. You know that last year we lost two excellent physical-education teachers who opted to teach in Japan, and we want to be sure that our offer is competitive. The parents' association and the town finance committee pressed us to offer anything to get Terkle to stay, but we have to be cautious.

"We've still got two English teachers and a media specialist that could be free agents by next September, and we certainly don't want to lose them," he concluded.

All of this information came at the same time that sources in the Metropolitan Public School System were announcing that they had lured highly regarded biology teacher Alan Fernwinkle from Standing Waters High School. Angered by this move, Standing Waters officials have scheduled a news conference for later this week, when they will announce their intention to initiate a suit over what they call "tampering" with members of their veteran staff.

"He's still got two years to go on his contract with us, " they explained. "And even though we refused to renegotiate after his classes turned out seven National Merit Scholarship winners last year, Metropolitan had no right to offer what they did."

Even with the loss of Fernwinkle, students at Standing Waters High can still count on one of the best faculties in the area. Also, their school has the territorial draft rights to at least three highly sought area college seniors--two of whom are majoring in the sciences. As one school-committee member put it: "This doesn't mean it will be a building year for us."

"Where will it all end?" one reporter was heard to ask as he walked to his car with a friend. "The public just seems to be so education-crazy that these teachers can practically name their own salary figures."

"I know," said his friend. "But it's just the perverted sense of values in our society today. I guess you have to look at it this way--teachers have been so pampered all of their lives that they've got no sense of reality. Besides, we all know that they could never handle a real job."

Vol. 04, Issue 21, Page 19

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