Letter to the Editor

Statistical information concerning Marshall schools

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Dear Editor,

There was no date on the following information, but it was on the Marshall High School website, so it must not be too old. Please bear with me as I present these stats for Marshall and national averages.

Average graduation rate: Marshall, 82 percent; Missouri, 86.6 percent; and national, 81 percent.

Average high school dropout rate: Marshall, 5.2 percent; Missouri, 2.2 percent; and national, 1.9 percent.

Math proficiency: Marshall, 45 percent; and Missouri 55.6 percent.

Reading proficiency: Marshall, 40 percent; and Missouri, 55.6 percent.

Student/teacher ration: Marshall, 13 to 1; Missouri 14 to 1; and national, 16 to one.

Marshall total education expenses: Marshall, $20,747; instruction, $64; support services, 32 percent; and other, 9 percent.

Revenue per student: Marshall, $8,754; Missouri, $10,593; and national, $11,965.

Net profit per student: Marshall, $436, Missouri, $77; and national, $25.

Average teacher salary: Marshall, $44,093; Missouri, $50,282; and national, $46,325.

Of these figures, in Marshall, regular teachers accounted for 65 percent, special education, 21 percent, vocational education, 7 percent and other, 7 percent. Students eligible for free or reduced price lunch: Marshall, 61 percent; and national average, 46 percent. In September 2014, a slight dip in MAP testing results in social studies was reported. That makes three core subjects (reading, math and social studies) showing depressed scores.

How many of the figures in the above information can we be proud of? Why do we have such a high drop out rate? Our current MAP scores are low at 4 percent, but the superintendent says we are not to worry about this because others are low also. While it is sad to hear about the others, it is our scores that directly concern me. According to the above figures, we have a good student/teacher ratio, so why aren't the reading, math and social studies scores better? I don't believe it to be teacher incompetence so much as how these subjects are taught. The how is dictated by MAP expectancies and time lines rather than pupil comprehension of the subject. Sometimes it takes more than one or two days for students to master a skill or task. That is another subject altogether and I will not pursue it here.

The revenue net profit per student is interesting. How do we make a profit from teaching students? The money is not going to the teachers who are doing the teaching. Is the school proud of making a profit here?

I believe the educational expenses figures are not current to the present time because of the salaries that are being paid to the part-time "directors", administrators and superintendent. Our district is very "top heavy" at this time and that is not reported in these findings.

The CTA salary committee representative gave the board three proposals for increasing teacher salaries the first time at the meeting on May 21, 2013.

The board took no action. This proposal was heard again at the beginning of this fiscal year and again no action was taken. On Sept. 3, 2014, the citizens committee met with Carol Maher and two members of the school board after she was hired as interim superintendent. At that time teacher salaries had been thoroughly discussed. The general agreement was that efforts should be made to increase the pay of teachers in order to be able to hire and retain good teachers. No other "staff" was mentioned. Discussion was held as to the need to present a levy increase proposal to the citizens to give the teachers more money. As our committee understood it, this was to be the only issue that would be brought to the people and that teachers would be the only staff receiving more income. At that same meeting, Maher was asked if she had any intention of becoming the superintendent. She said that she had two jobs in Columbia and was not interested in anything but acting. That question was asked because she had brought a business consultant on board and they had started to audit overtime hours and energy use, review budget processes and review health care policies. We felt then and still do that it was a bit much for someone who was not planning to stay.

During the board meeting on Sept. 23, 2014, a $680 increase was approved for each administrator for the 2014-2015 school year. No teacher increases were mentioned. On Jan. 21, 2014, it was recommended to purchase an evaluation tool to help in the paperwork of the new teacher evaluation process. Start-up price of this program was $12,875 with annual cost of $7,250. Again, no teacher salary increases were discussed. At the December 2014 board meeting, the following items were discussed: District contracts with a company for a student information system, a contract for an administrative financial system (start up cost $30,000 and annual cost $10,000) a substitute calling management system (two companies were being looked at with costs from $6,000 to $10,000.) No mention of increasing teacher salaries. At that same meeting Maher was offered a three-year contract beginning Jan. 1, 2015. The superintendent position had been published for a very short time and no other interviews for the position were held. I will write more on this in the next letter. On Jan. 20, 2015, work continued on teacher evaluations. Again, no mention of teacher salaries. In that same meeting, discussion was held about putting a levy request on the April 2015 ballot. Now we hear about teacher salaries. Not just teachers but other staff too. It seems that other administrators are always included with teacher raises. Why can't they qualify for their own? How can we have more than $4,000,000 in our various funds, be thinking about opening a classroom at the Habilitation Center and hiring various consultants to do jobs for us and not be able to support our teachers with adequate salaries? We have to have a levy increase to afford this? It doesn't make sense. Teachers and students are the actual backbone of the school system. It is about time we recognize them as such and treat them accordingly. Thank you for reading this lengthy letter and thinking about these issues. This is your tax money at work. The question is, how do you want it to work?

Della Newman,

retired teacher, Marshall