Our Opinion: More needed in Westmorland

June 07, 2001

It must be tough to run a small school district in a tiny community that has seen little growth in recent years. It makes setting budgets difficult and makes providing raises to deserving employees even harder.

However, what the Westmorland Union Elementary School District has offered its teachers — a 2-percent raise — does not seem fair. We foresee teachers leaving the district as a result of such an offer and such a small district cannot afford to lose qualified teachers.

Because of relatively low pay and other factors, Westmorland already loses many young teachers, who after a year or two on the job move to better-paying districts. That problem will only get worse if such an offer stays on the table.

The district is clearly struggling financially as a result of declining student population and other issues. We realize the district probably cannot offer teachers what other school districts have offered.


Still, there must be a way to offer a bit more than a 2-percent raise when other districts around the county are offering five times that, especially since the state gave money this year that can go toward raises. There must be a way for the district to send a message to teachers that the district is concerned about their needs and is going to do what it can to make teachers know they are important. The 2-percent offer does not come close.

There are a number of budgetary concerns in the district, such as $43,000 for a speech therapist that had not been budgeted but must be paid, and money owed to former superintendent Anne Mallory after she left her position recently.

Those are real issues the district must contend with, but they seem as if, under ideal bookkeeping procedures, they would be separate from the district giving teachers a fair cost-of-living increase.

It is unfortunate contract talks have reached an impasse, and we would hate to see this turn into a situation where the students are affected by a loss of services. If the issue is not settled before the start of the new school year, the battle between teachers and the administration will ultimately affect students. During such contract disputes the focus drifts from students to the battle between those who are supposed to serve students.

There are not a lot of amenities in Westmorland for youths. That gives the school an even more important role than many places.

Westmorland has good teachers and administrators. They often work with children from tough socioeconomic situations and often succeed with such students. Westmorland kids truly need good teachers.

The district simply is going to have to find a way to make a few more dollars available to teachers in order to keep the good and great teachers it has.

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