Dorchester schools need more money

EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is the full text of Dorchester Educators’ President Katie Holbrook’s remarks to the Dorchester County Council on May 1.

BREAK-OUT QUOTE:

Our teachers are going next door to our surrounding Eastern Shore counties such as Talbot, Caroline, and Wicomico.”

– Katie Holbrook

Speaking up for Dorchester’s teachers

By Katie Holbrook

Good evening President Travers, members of the county council, and ladies and gentlemen. My name is Katie Holbrook. I have been a resident of Dorchester County for the past 24 years and this is my tenth year as a teacher for Dorchester County Public Schools.

I remember 10 years ago, when I graduated from college and earned my first job with Dorchester County Public Schools, being so excited to begin my career in education. Even as a little girl, there was no dream quite as vivid as growing up and becoming a teacher.

I remember the first day in my new classroom, standing with bags full of collected and purchased treasures just waiting to adorn the blank walls. I remember the first day with students being the most exciting and terrifying moment of my life – after all, I am responsible for shaping the hearts and minds of the children that were placed before me!

A need for

second jobs

I also remember the first day that my colleagues had to leave our planning sessions early to get to work at their second job on time, and the day when my union representative told me that we may not get a raise unless we pleaded with our County Council members to vote on a budget that was greater than the Maintenance of Effort.

I remember e-mailing each of the members, explaining how disheartening it was to have finally earned the career that I had always dreamed of, only to learn that it wasn’t enough – well educated with two degrees and my dream career may still leave me choosing between paying for groceries and gas this week.

That year County Council approved the Board of Education’s proposed budget and teachers received a raise. That was 10 years ago, and the last time that the County Council has voted on a budget above Maintenance of Effort.

Fast forward and I stand before you now as a tenth-year veteran teacher, and the president of Dorchester Educators (DE), the local union that represents almost 600 educators in Dorchester County Public Schools. DE also represents the Education Support Personnel, our staff that support the operations of our school system, food service, custodial, maintenance, instructional assistants, and administrative personnel. Staff makes up the backbone of our school system, which simply cannot run without their vital roles in each one of our schools.

Teachers are

leaving county

Tonight, I speak on behalf of this membership to ask you to please amend the current proposed budged to fund Dorchester County Public Schools above Maintenance of Effort.

It has recently come to my attention that approximately 30 educators have already submitted letters of resignation from Dorchester County Public Schools. I have heard from dozens of other teachers stating they have already signed contracts with other counties. Most notable is that many of these teachers are not leaving the shore or this profession, they are leaving Dorchester County!

Our teachers are going next door to our surrounding Eastern Shore counties such as Talbot, Caroline, and Wicomico. These counties are hand picking our best and it is with regret that I inform you today, that I fear actual numbers to be close to 100 teachers.

The impact of losing highly qualified, certificated educators is detrimental not only to the infrastructure of our schools, but to our students who deserve a quality education. The facts remain that educators in Dorchester County rank, on average, 24th out of 24 counties for pay in the state of Maryland, specifically noting that our starting salary is now below that of Somerset County.

Imagine the

changes

We believe that maintaining a competitive salary schedule is vital to the recruitment and retention of highly qualified, certificated educators, especially given the looming threat of a teacher shortage just around the corner. In fact, I was just informed this evening that Salisbury University graduated just seven secondary English teachers!

In order to do this, increased funding is necessary. If increased funding is not granted, teachers will receive a step, but it will come at a cost – a cost measured by larger class sizes, fewer textbooks, cutting staff and vital programs that contribute to student success, a cost far greater than dollar signs.

Imagine a school where trash is strewn about because each building was required to cut a custodian. Imagine a school where the phone rings and rings, no one is available to let you into the building, and parents are greeted with an overworked administrative secretary instead of a smile because each school was required to forfeit a secretary due to budget cuts.

Imagine a school where students outnumber classroom teachers by more than 30 to 1 and intervention teachers are scarce because open teacher positions are left unfilled and instructional assistant positions have been cut. Imagine teachers spending countless unpaid hours outside of a school day creating curriculum, resources, and lessons because curriculum cannot be afforded.

Imagine schools organizing fundraisers to help pay for books and classroom materials. Imagine, because next school year this may be our reality.

Schools in a

safety crisis

It must also be mentioned that Dorchester County, the state of Maryland, and our nation are experiencing a safety crisis. Violent actions of students that have been taking place in our county for years preceded the horrific scene that took place at Great Mills’ last month.

It is dangerous to think that it “can’t happen here”. Threats to school safety are knocking on our school and classroom doors. How will you respond?

We, the union, have advocated and petitioned the Board of Education for appropriate training for our teachers and staff members, appropriate, timely, and clear communication to all stake holders, and appropriate policy for student conduct, safety, and discipline. But we would be sorely mistaken if we believed that these increased safety measures didn’t come with a price tag.

The belief that increased safety measures can be accomplished with the minimum funding afforded by law is not only naïve, it borders on negligence. At a time when our legislative lawmakers are passing bills at the state house and senate to increase school funding and funding for safety, does it not also behoove our local government to follow suit? That if increased funding to education is the priority of our governor, representatives, and senators, why is it not a local priority also?

Schools at the

floor of funding

We, the educators in Dorchester County, maintain a collaborative relationship with all stakeholders in an effort to accomplish necessary change. We pledge to work with our Board of Education and this County Council to bring about progress that our students, staff, and schools deserve.

Dorchester County public schools have existed for a very long time with a budget from County Council that is at the floor of funding. We need the County Council to support quality schools for the 21st century student.

Our students deserve highly qualified educators. Professionals deserve competitive salaries. On behalf of Dorchester Educators we submit to you that merely budgeting to fund MOE does not meet the growing responsibilities of our school system, due, in part, to the fluctuating, federal and state mandates that increase costs.

Limited funding impacts our school district’s ability to provide needed resources for student success. We believe funding above Maintenance of Effort is a necessity this year.

Please consider amending the current proposed budget to fund our schools, support our students, support our staff, and support public education in Dorchester County.

Thank you for the opportunity to speak tonight.

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.

Facebook Comment