These are tough times for teachers. Positions are being cut, salaries frozen and benefits diminished as school boards struggle with a weak economy and government mandates.
Making life even tougher are frustrated taxpayers who feel teachers are over-paid and under-worked. They fail to recognize the financial investment teachers have made, and continue to make, to earn certification. They don't understand teachers are 10-month employees who do not have summers off.
Some mean-spirited people have taken to slandering teachers anonymously on line. They post teacher salaries, which are and should be public information, without any explanation of their duties in an attempt to stir jealousy and anger.
As a group, teachers must feel embattled. It would be easy to understand if they responded in kind, but that hasn't been the case. Our teachers have been, and remain, dedicated to their students in spite of all the slings and arrows directed at them.
I'll admit I'm bias. I'm married to a Schroon Lake teacher and have close friends who teach in every area school. But while that may make me bias, it also gives me a unique perspective. I've answered the phone late at night and on weekends when students call asking for help with assignments and personal problems. Our family has changed its schedule to allow for Saturday morning and after-school review sessions. I see papers being graded at night and plans being made on weekends. I've questioned a personal expense to find that a classroom or student needed something extra.
My wife is a great teacher, I'm proud to say. But she's not the only one. Our schools are filled with dedicated professionals. People should find out what really happens at school.
Ticonderoga High School has teachers and students working from 7 a.m. to late at night virtually every day. Whether it's Nelson Shapiro rehearsing with the jazz band at 7 a.m. or Don Kaupelis conducting math review until 8:30 p.m., learning is a day-long job.
It should be pointed out teachers aren't paid overtime. They don't benefit from the extra hours - but their students do.
Every school in our area has been affected by the recession. Moriah teachers are now in difficult contract talks, Crown Point and Schroon Lake teachers have agreed to pay freezes and Ti teachers have agreed to reduce a scheduled pay raise. All have made benefit concessions. Have you heard any teachers complain? No, they're just thinking about preparing their students for final exams.
Given New York's financial position, it's easy to see tough times lie ahead for schools. Difficult decisions, many affecting teachers, will have to made in the years to come. It's important that those decisions be made by an informed public and not a group of anonymous internet cowards. Our teachers - and students - deserve at least that much.
Fred Herbst is Times of Ti editor. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org