The Carlisle Mosquito Online

Friday, November 15, 2002

Opinions



How large is your pay raise?

Without any fanfare the Carlisle Teachers' Association and the Concord-Carlisle Teachers' Association are beginning the process of renegotiating their salary and benefits contracts with their respective school committees. Teachers' base salaries are categorized into "lanes," determined by the highest degree earned plus the number of postgraduate credits beyond that degree. Salaries increase on "steps" within each lane, with each step representing a year of teaching experience. There are 11-12 steps in Carlisle and 17 steps at CCHS.

The current CCHS contract was negotiated in 2000 for a period of three years, ending in June 2003. This year (FY03) the cost-of-living increase for high school teachers is 3%. Those eligible for a step change (less than 17 years of experience) received an additional 4%, for a total raise of 7%. Teachers who earned credits for a "lane change," got another adjustment. Additional pay was given to teachers above step 15 who won various merit awards and to those who have taught in the Concord-Carlisle schools for more than 10 years.

The current Carlisle contract was negotiated in 2001 to run for two years, through June 2003. This year every Carlisle teacher in good standing received a cost-of-living increase of 4% plus a step change of 5% (if less than 12 years of experience), for a total raise of 9%.

On a percentage basis, these increases are well above the rate of inflation and well above raises in most other segments in the economy. While we must remember that the current contracts were negotiated two to three years ago — before the economy tanked, before 9/11, before Carlisle voted down an override — times have changed. Many in Carlisle will get no pay raise this year and, yes, some have lost their jobs.

Stories in this issue (see page 7) and last week's describe the FinCom's struggle to design a balanced budget for FY04 in the face of shrinking revenues. In Carlisle, teacher salaries alone — excluding professional development costs and salaries for administrative and support personnel — constitute 55% of the total school budget. And the Carlisle Public School budget is 40% of the total town budget. (All education expenses, including CCHS and Minuteman Tech, add up to 61% of the town budget.) Teachers' salaries, therefore, are the single largest expense in the budget. The FinCom believes that the town can only afford a 2.6% increase in the total Carlisle School budget in FY04.

By law, the teachers associations and their school committees are empowered to enter into binding contracts without oversight by any other town boards or officials. All negotiations will take place in closed-door executive sessions. We can only hope that the teachers' associations recognize that the towns can no longer sustain the increases of the past.



Unplugged

This is my declaration of independence.

Two years ago, in this space, I lamented the lack of broadband Internet access in our community. Since that time, we have renewed the contract of our cable provider, despite its unwillingness to meet our bid requirement to provide broadband service. And DSL service is still not available. We remain unserved by the monopolies enfranchised to serve us.

But we are not so completely — or easily — subjugated.

Within the past several weeks I have severed my umbilical dependence on our cable provider, and diminished my reliance on our local telephone carrier. Television reception is the easy part. Digital satellite providers offer more channels, with clearer signal and fewer interruptions, at comparable cost to cable TV. Two weeks on, and I am wondering why it took me so long to convert. Imagine channel 2 without stripes.

Internet is more difficult — and more critical.

I am fortunate to have Stefan as a neighbor; he has the technical expertise and the sophistication to design a high-speed Internet system outside the entrenched monopolies. And the patience to address my many technical shortcomings. He has brought in a T1 line to his home and set up a wireless network among several of our neighbors to share the cost. I now have high-speed Internet access from my home equivalent to my service at work, and can link multiple computers to the Internet at the same time — all without occupying a telephone line.

In most Massachusetts communities, the proclamations in the preceding sentence would be unremarkable. By reason of our captive reliance on duly franchised service providers, we in Carlisle have been deprived of the benefits enjoyed by most of the connected world. But it need not be so.

Carlisleans are accustomed to self-reliance. We depend on private water supply and wastewater disposal. We meet at the transfer station on weekends, since we do not enjoy "curbside" rubbish collection. Why should our access to information be controlled by a central monopoly?

My point is principally that technology has progressed to allow most of us to gain high-speed access without reliance on large and unresponsive providers. With a little effort and expertise, small cooperatives using wireless technology, such as the one Stefan has fostered in our neighborhood, can supplant the stranglehold we have suffered under our telephone and cable providers. Maybe if enough of us demonstrate our willingness to develop wholly independent means to meet our needs, our service providers will become more responsive. Harkening to our forebears in Boston, we could throw a Carlisle "T1 Party," sparking an insurrection against the tyranny of distant and unresponsive monopolists.

Now, if only I could get a decent cell phone signal.

 


2002 The Carlisle Mosquito