Education Opinion


By Roslyn Johnson Smith, Ph.D. — March 02, 2008 2 min read
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I have a pretty strange assignment for the weekend. The Director of Recovery School District Charter Schools sent out a letter requesting copies of our salary schedules. This is in response to a public records request by a group of lawyers. I recognized a few of the names on the letterhead as attorneys for the United Teachers of New Orleans. A teacher friend told me that there was a meeting yesterday called by UTNO for all former members of the collective bargaining units.

One of the reasons that the takeover of the schools created such strong feelings among educators was the destruction of the teachers union. Although the UTNO/OPSB contract negotiations are still going on, the district now governs only 5 direct-run schools and 12 chartered schools. If the district renegotiates a new contract, it will only cover the 5 schools. There would be no direct relationship with our RSD-chartered school.

Pre-Katrina, I had the privilege of serving as the last Chief Negotiator for the district’s contract talks with the union. As a former union representative and even a picket captain, I had strong feelings about the rights of employees before my stint as a school principal. The previous experience as a labor leader actually helped me to be a better manager. I already knew all of the rules intimately and tried to follow them.

When we wrote our employee handbook this year, I incorporated much of the work we had done in the last district-union agreement. I don’t believe teachers should have to demand professional treatment; it should be guaranteed. It took a long time to finish the document because we wanted to be sure our teachers had time to review the lengthy handbook and give input before the Board voted on it.

In a separate notice, we were informed, “The Recover (sic) School District is currently in litigation pertaining to our hiring practices.” My guess is that the salary schedules are being requested because someone believes they are not being paid a just wage. Maybe there is some discrepancy in the current pay schedules and what people were making by district standards. It could be that school leaders have not given teachers credit for their years of experience.

One of our Board members is an attorney and she probably knows more about the litigation. In the meantime, I will pull the five salary schedules together and forward them as requested. We don’t have anything to hide. Our teacher salaries are among the highest paid among the charter schools, according to a recent state report. If we’ve done anything wrong, we’ll apologize and fix it. Haw hard can that be? Everyday is a learning experience.

The opinions expressed in Starting Over: A Post-Katrina Education are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.