2012-06-21 / Letters to the Editor

‘Fast track’ wasn’t an insult towards teachers

Last week, Jamestown Teachers’ Association member Mark Allard wrote a letter objecting to the use of the term “fast track” to describe the teachers’ salary step system (“Teachers should not be seen as ‘fast trackers,’” June 14). He urged readers to watch the School Committee’s June 7 discussion of the step system on the Jamestown Record. I echo that suggestion.

Reaching one’s top salary in 12 years is by definition a fast track. But labeling it thus does not imply that the 12 years constitute an “easy” road. The School Committee recognizes that every year in the classroom brings a new set of challenges and that the continuing professional growth of our teachers benefits our students exponentially.

I use the term “fast track” to describe the teachers’ salary step system because it is a process in which beginning teachers enter at step one, automatically advance a step at the beginning of each subsequent year, and within 12 years reach the top step – their highest possible career salary unless additional percentage increases are negotiated.

Rhode Island law requires districts to employ a step system, with the number of steps not to exceed 12. In terms of salary guarantees, the 12th step is in fact a “finish line,” because the system includes no provision for further increases.

Certainly the School Committee recognizes that this “finish line” is structural – built into the step system – not academic. We highly value our top-step teachers for the experience, breadth of knowledge and enthusiasm they share with their students and colleagues each day.

The step system leaves these most experienced employees “hanging” on a salary plateau during what could be an additional 20-plus years of service. To address the inadequacy of this system, we negotiated as part of the contract settlement the creation of a collaborative committee to study the issue and make recommendations.

Annual percentage increases are not a viable long-term solution, as these will result in time in salary levels that are unsustainable for the School Department and community.

We are confident that by working collaboratively, we can tackle the problems inherent in the current system.

Cathy Kaiser Chairwoman School Committee Jamestown

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