Friday, June 21, 2002
How do CCHS salaries compare?
Does Concord-Carlisle High School pay teachers more than comparable schools? At the Annual Town Meeting in May, finance committee member Lisa Jensen-Fellows, and others, targeted teachers' pay at the Carlisle Public Schools and at CCHS as critical to reducing future tax increases. Jensen-Fellows subsequently stated in a letter to the editor (March 17, 2002), "The average pay level of teachers at CCHS is the highest in the state. Relative to CCHS, average teacher pay is 16% less at Dover-Sherborn, 21% less at Lincoln-Sudbury and 26% less at Acton-Boxborough." This statement was rebutted by Betsy Bilodeau, chair of the Concord-Carlisle Regional School Committee (RSC), at the Special Town Meeting last Monday, claiming that CCHS salary structure is similar to that at comparable schools.
DOE compares salaries
Much of the concern seems to be based on average salaries for the year 2000 as calculated by the Massachusetts Department of Education (DOE) and reported on their web site and in Boston magazine. They report that CCHS teachers were paid an average of $66,654 in 2000, compared with an average of $49,260 at Acton-Boxborough and in the low to mid-50s at labor market competitors Brookline, Dover-Sherborn, Lexington, Lincoln-Sudbury, Newton, Weston and Wellesley.
Questioning DOE calculation
RSC members and school administrators have objected to using these figures to compare CCHS teachers pay with other schools. Although they have not identified any specific error in the calculation, they claim that the way the DOE calculates the "average," or the data used, must be incorrect.
According to DOE spokesman Jonathan Palumbo, using numbers provided by the districts, "they add up the total money spent on salaries [$4.4 million in year 2000] and divide that by the number of full-time equivalent teachers [66.6 teachers in 2000] to arrive at the average."
Deidre Farrell, director of financial services at CCHS, does not deny that salaries at CCHS are "in the 95
The Mosquito has also found an unexplained discrepancy between the number of full-time positions (FTE) used by the DOE and the number reported by the district, which could substantially affect calculation of the average salary. According to Palumbo, the DOE used 66.6 FTE to calculate average salary in 2000, while the district reports a total of 105.63 FTE for the following (2001-02) school year.
Farrell and superintendent Ed Mavragis believe that, with changes the DOE has instituted to make data collected more uniform across districts, the average salary calculated for CCHS for 2001 and 2002 should be in the range of $59-60,000.
Experience, education cost more
Administrators and RSC members have also argued that using the average salary to compare teachers' pay is misleading. Since pay increases as teachers earn postgraduate credits and accumulate experience, the average for a given district depends on its proportion of highly educated and/or "senior" teachers. So, for a system like CCHS, where nine out of ten teachers have at least a master's degree, and almost 40% have at least 17 years in teaching, the average salary will be much higher than at a system with more beginning teachers.
For instance, despite a similar pay scale to CCHS, the average salary at Dover-Sherborn is lower due to the recent replacement of retiring staff with teachers paid about $20,000 less. Newton also expects a similar benefit as veterans retire over the next few years.
Northern Spy vs. McIntosh
So if the distribution of teachers makes average pay misleading, a more valid comparison might be whether typical CCHS teachers are paid more than their counterparts with the same credentials in comparable districts. But this effort is also complicated and confusing. As former finance committee and RSC member Peter Cole says, "they may [appear to] be apples and apples, but they are not the same. There are Northern Spys and Cortlands and McIntoshes."
Each scale (referred to as a "lane" by administrators) establishes a base salary for teachers based on the highest degree earned and number of postgraduate credits beyond that degree, if any. Salaries increase on "steps" within each lane, with each step representing a year of experience in teaching. When teachers reach the highest step, their base salary is "capped" and does not rise subsequently except for cost-of-living increases and time in the district (unless they earn more postgraduate credits and "change lanes").
As Cole observes, what complicates comparison is that neither the number of lanes nor the number of steps nor the criteria for changing lanes is consistent from system to system. For instance, Concord-Carlisle has eight "lanes," for teachers with a bachelor's degree, a bachelor's +15 credits, a master's degree, master's +15, +30, +45, and +60 credits, and a doctorate. Each lane has 17 steps, or years of pay increases until the salary ceiling is reached. Wayland has six lanes with between 10 and 12 steps, Newton 5 with 13 steps, and so on.
Apples to apples?
To try to compare salaries for teachers with the same credentials, the Mosquito has identified several common lane/step combinations at CCHS and compared base salaries for these teachers with what they would be paid at a small sample of the schools the high school competes with for teachers: Wayland, Acton-Boxborough, Lincoln-Sudbury, Dover-Sherborn, Newton, Lexington. (Salary scales used for CCHS, Wayland, Acton-Boxborough and Lincoln-Sudbury staff were for this year (2001-2002), and for next year (2002-2003) for Dover-Sherborn, Newton and Lexington.)
As Table 1 shows, CCHS pays its most experienced teachers, those with 17 years of teaching or more, about $1,000 more than they would earn at the next most generous districts in the sample (Wayland and Newton), and considerably more than the other schools. Nearly a third of the teachers at the high school fall into this category.
However, base salaries at CCHS rank in the middle of this sample for faculty with only a master's degree and 5 to 11 years of experience. These teachers, who consititute almost 20% of the CCHS faculty, would earn nearly the same or more at Newton, Wayland and Dover-Sherborn. By contrast, for smaller clusters of teachers at the top of the bachelor's-degree-only lane, and those beginning their careers with a master's degree, base salaries at CCHS are higher than every district except for Newton.
The Mosquito has obtained a draft of a larger salary study that also tries to match apples with apples. The data were collected by the Education Collaborative (EDCO) and Concord Area Special Education Collaborative (CASE), both organizations of school districts in Greater Boston and the western suburbs that provide collaborative services to those districts. The study compares this year's (2001-2002) base salary scales for sixteen member districts, including Concord-Carlisle and most of its labor market competitors (Brookline, Newton, Lincoln-Sudbury, Lexington, etc.). Only the salaries paid to the beginning and the most experienced teachers are included.
Within this group of sixteen, the pattern for the most experienced teachers seems the same as the step-by-step/lane by lane comparison above. CCHS salaries rank at or near the highest, except for beginning teachers with only a bachelor's degree, who start at a base salary lower than seven other districts.) Several towns pay similar salaries for beginning teachers at the master's and post-master's levels, but Concord-Carlisle salaries for the most experienced teachers with master's and doctoral degrees appear to be dramatically higher than almost all other districts. The base salaries of $70,654 and $79,849 after 17 years of experience, respectively, are about $5,000 higher than closest competitors Newton, Carlisle, Lexington, and Brookline (excluded from table).
Health benefits differ
Besides salary, districts provide other forms of compensation that affect comparison, some of which are compared in Table 2. In virtually all districts some teachers also receive stipends above their salary for extracurricular duties, curriculum development or other work, tuition reimbursement, etc., and these vary from town to town. Other suburban districts pay a higher proportion of health insurance premiums (70 to 90 percent) than CCHS (50 percent). (No retirement costs are paid by school districts.)
Finally, in some districts base salaries are also increased relatively small amounts for "longevity," or years teaching in that particular system. These longevity payments, and their timing, are different in each district, further confusing comparison.
Limits on teaching load
Administrators also cite less tangible incentives, such as a longer period of salary increments before reaching a ceiling on base salary (reflected in the number of steps). Finally and perhaps with greater long-term budget implications, contracts in Concord-Carlisle and other districts (Newton, Wayland, Lincoln-Sudbury, Acton-Boxborough) limit the teaching load to four or five sections per day or week, or at CCHS to 90 students per teacher.
Dr. Thomas Scott, former CCHS superintendent and now director of the Educational Collaborative (EDCO), says the "subtle language" of different contracts can vitally affect the working climate of a school. Some districts are very rigid, and teachers' work is dictated by the clock, but at Concord-Carlisle, there's "a different tone." There, teachers are not in "clock-punching mode," but are flexible and willing "to give back" in ways that are important to the school, Scott says.
The bottom line? CCHS salaries are near the top, but exact comparisons are difficult.
© 2002 The Carlisle Mosquito