Northwest NEWS

March 1, 1999


Guest Editorial

Help us attract and retain educators

From: B-Z Davis, School Board President; Jean Fowler, School Board Vice-President; Kirby Larson, School Board Director; Sue Paro, School Board Director; Tim Barclay, School Board Director; and Karen Forys, Superintendent

   Educators are worth the investment. Children are worth the investment.

   The spotlight is on education, both in Northshore and in the Legislature. Parents, students, community members, and politicians are demanding greater operational efficiency in our schools, increased opportunities for parent involvement, and most importantly, higher student achievement.

   The expectations are reasonable, even welcome. But just as a house needs a sound foundation, so does a strong school system. Quality education is a partnership.

   Everyone who touches a child's life contributes, directly or indirectly, to helping those children learn. Whether it's a principal ensuring a safe campus, a custodian making sure the school is warm and clean, a cook providing a healthy lunch, a nurse attending to those in need, or a teacher on the front line in the classroom day after day, all are there to support student learning.

   The Legislature is currently wrestling with the issue of salary increases for teachers. While most in Olympia have agreed to the need for these increases, they've yet to agree on the amount. As school board members and the superintendent, we strongly support these efforts.

   It's time to step up to what we say is important. It's time to recognize the critical role educators play in shaping the future generation, and therefore, the future economy. It's time to offer educators competitive compensation.

   But the Legislature's conversation and thinking need to be expanded. It's not just the teachers who deserve a pay raise. It's all educators and school staffs. As everyone is part of the team working toward the goal of student achievement, all deserve to be acknowledged for the part they play. This is not the time to play divide and conquer. This is not the time to add a financial burden to school districts by asking them to absorb the cost of increases for other employees.

   The reality is that we are finding it harder and harder to attract and retain well-qualified staff in all categories. Compared to other sectors of the economy, our pay is so low that many can't pay their bills and are forced to take second jobs. The result is that more and more educators are choosing to leave the profession. In spite of their love of teaching and their commitment to education, they cannot afford to stay. We are losing quality people at a time when we can least afford it.

   We must be realistic in our need to attract and retain those to whom we entrust our children, their lives, and their futures.