Chariho School Parents’ Forum

April 28, 2009

Chariho teachers’ salary on fast track

Filed under: Chariho,Charlestown,contract negotiations — Editor @ 7:30 pm

h/t CP and Tom himself for sending me this.

Dear Editor,


The recent abysmally low voter turnout for the Chariho budget shouldn’t surprise anyone. Ever since the regional “town hall” meeting to approve Chariho budgets was eliminated, voter participation has been minimal. Nor should it surprise anyone that the proposed budget was defeated. The Chariho School Committee has for years failed to control school expenses. Finally voters are waking up and pushing back. Most people in our communities want and support good education but they also want and need prudent and responsible budgets. 




This out of control spending starts with teacher salaries and benefits that make up the largest portion of the Chariho expense. Look at the chart above—it’s simple, an individual who was just out of college in 1999 with a teaching degree and hired by Chariho would earn $23,806 for the 1999-2000 school year. If that individual is still teaching at Chariho this year, only 9 school years later, without any further education, their salary would have soared to $70,892—a whopping THREE FOLD increase; absolutely extraordinary in a period of relatively low inflation! That’s just below an average 13% increase per year! How many taxpayers in our three towns can say that they have enjoyed pay increases of that magnitude?


The above speaks only to salary. There’s not enough room here to get into the details of Chariho teachers’ health insurance, vacation time, holidays, and pensions provisions that make their entire compensation package even more lucrative. This School Committee and its predecessors have had countless opportunities to reign in these costs but they have repeatedly acquiesced to union demands.


The School Committee will often say in response to requests to reduce the budget that their “hands are tied” by contract agreements.  Who’s fooling who? Those contracts were negotiated and approved by the School Committee. The next teachers’ contract is being negotiated right now – Now is when the Chariho School Committee must act and gain real cost reductions, to both salary and benefits, for the new budget.  


Let’s hope that the School Committee has gotten the message the voters sent last Tuesday. In this difficult economy the public wants the School Committee to aggressively address school spending. The School Committee needs to have meaningful reductions to the budget –and please don’t try to play the standard game of deleting field trips, sports, and advanced study programs etc. as the first response to that request.  Otherwise, the public will have no other recourse but to give a meaningful NO to the next budget.


Thomas Frost   



And before the inevitable flood of emails come, as are always sent when I post anything from or about RISC, let me answer the most common questions.  RISC is a group run by several south county residents, mostly intelligent well meaning retired CEO’s. Yes Tom is on the board of RISC. Yes I used to be. No I am not now – they asked me to leave.  No, RISC and OSPRI are not affiliated. Yes we agree on some things (tax issues). No we don’t agree on everything (LNG development). Yes, they have expressed displeasure with the current performance of our education system. No, they have not (as far as I know) taken a position on school choice. Yes RISC started a transparency project 6 months after OSPRI went online, No I don’t know why they duplicate efforts. Yes I was involved in discussions with them about creating a transparency project before I created OSPRI. No, obviously, things didn’t work out. Yes I had started the concept on this website before that. Do they feel they have an intellectual property right to the idea? you will have to ask them but I have been told no.

Yes I have asked them why they are duplicating efforts.  No, they don’t believe it is a waste of money (we provide budgets, payrolls, contracts, and the check register – they provide budgets, payrolls, contracts and fiscal statements).  No they don’t do RI Votes. Yes RISC has advocated against the Westerly Bond. No they have not advocated against the Chariho bond. Yes they used to be called the RI Shoreline Coalition – but now the State Wide Coalition. Yes most of their donors used to come from Charlestown and Watch Hill but the situation may have changed since they went state wide. Do OSPRI and RISC “get along? I would like to but they are actively working to hurt OSPRI (e.g. once attacked ospri by saying we had a political agenda and inferred that our data would be tainted) and I have received information where a RISC official said they will never promote anything OSPRI does (have you ever seen an OSPRI OpEd in the RISC daily news recap?) and they cut the OSPRI logo off the Tea Party flyer before handing it out. Yes I am as perplexed as you. I think that will answer most questions I normally receive.  I have exhausted all efforts in resolving the issue and don’t feel like answering the emails anymore.  So they are all answered here.

All that being said, I think Tom did a good job on this and agree. That’s why I continue to promote good policy regardless of who develops it.



  1. Wow … I’m for teachers getting paid appropriate professional salaries, but the now that they are well paid by professional standards the gold plated pension and health benefits have to go.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — April 28, 2009 @ 9:29 pm | Reply

  2. If we had a top rated educational system, then the compensation afforded the employees would be money well spent. Instead what we have is a 2/3 non proficiency rate with an attitude of “It’s owed to us”.

    Comment by RS — April 28, 2009 @ 10:25 pm | Reply

  3. Once again the biggest problem is overlooked.

    Salaries and benefits are way out of whack compared to the average taxpayers, but more importantly is the number of unnecessary employees on the payroll. With an employee to student ratio of 6:1 and a teacher to student ratio of 11:1, 20% of employees could be fired and we’d still have ratios of 7.5:1 and 13:1.

    We could probably even maintain the absurd teacher to student ratio of 11:1 if we got rid of psychologists; social workers; guidance counselors for 5th, 6th, and 7th graders; teachers’ assistants; bus monitors; and the many other employees who do jobs far beyond the scope of what is needed to educate children.

    By all means demand realistic contracts which turn back the assinine salaries and benefits; but let’s not forget that Chariho provides services far beyond what is required to educate children. These unnecessary employees cost us millions every year.

    Comment by Curious Resident — April 29, 2009 @ 10:38 am | Reply

  4. Hi!
    What is missing is an outside management study on staffing as well as other areas; and to rethink many other items. One is should all teachers be paid the same? I understand the University of Rhode Island now has compensation based on what subjects faculty teach. Faculty in such disciplines as engineering get better compensated than faculty in other disciplines for example. Whether we want to admit it or not employability and compensation in the private sector is not necessarily or often the same per specific degree(s),. This is not the case in secondary and elementary schools.

    Comment by Scott Bill Hirst — April 29, 2009 @ 1:44 pm | Reply

  5. A very good point Mr. Hirst. In fact, I was speaking to a Middle School science teacher just last week and he brought up the same thing. He’s pretty union oriented, but still thinks it is absurd that all teachers are paid the same based solely on time in grade. I think they are all well over paid, but clearly art and music teachers have much less out-of-class responsibilities as compared to a science teacher. Plus, the core curriculum for science and several other majors are significantly more rigourous. Once again all teachers benefit from working for a government monopoly where everyone is compensated the same regardless of merit.

    I doubt unions would ever allow for different pay scales for different disciplines. Unions are closely aligned with socialism, and pay equality is one more example.

    Comment by Curious Resident — April 29, 2009 @ 4:55 pm | Reply

  6. Mr. Frost you are to be commended and though I haven’t personally followed the ying or the yang regarding OSPRI or RISC, I personally follow OSPRI closer and support it when I can. Felkner is as they say in the World Series of Poker, THE NUTS! A hand you can’t beat.

    As Mr. Felkner has noted it’s about good policy and openess to the people that pay the Bill!

    Mr. Frost thanks for putting into print what others haven’t.

    Comment by Nate — April 29, 2009 @ 6:22 pm | Reply

  7. Gene not bad for 180 days, minus personal days, professional development, etc etc and as noted. Glad your a voice that gets it!

    Comment by Nate — April 29, 2009 @ 7:41 pm | Reply

  8. They are pushing for 80,000 last I heard from a volunteer leak at chariho.

    Comment by Nate — April 29, 2009 @ 7:45 pm | Reply

  9. Hi!
    What is missed is this as prestigious is the office of Governor for example, he is NOT the highest paid state official or employee, including some of his sunbordinates. Even the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondaty Education makes more. Even as prestigious as Yale University the university president is NOT the highest paid person on campus. The point is this: Is it really necessary other than tradition and by contract, the Supt. of Schools MUST be paid more than the highest step teacher? That is in no way to criticize the Supt. but the thinking of compensation.
    Mr. Frost, I already pasted in a book your letter. Glad they allowed printing of the graph. What day and page was it on, so I can have right information to go with clipping.
    I noticed even locally town managers after Supt. of Schools are not necessarily the highest paid, after the Supt. of Schools. The Westerly Sun recently did their compensation series on local towns, but you may not be able to get it without subscribing online.

    Comment by Scott Bill Hirst — April 30, 2009 @ 4:49 pm | Reply

  10. This is outrageous … Teachers work extremely hard and all for the students of this district. Why is it, the teacher’s salaries are always considered high?? THEY are the ones who are IN the classrooms each day, working and teaching the children of this district.

    Vote YES – May 12th

    Comment by Chariho — May 3, 2009 @ 10:55 pm | Reply

    • Why is it Chariho can’t teach more than 1/3 of the students to a proficiency level equitable with the top ranked salary of the administration? Explain please.

      Comment by RS — May 4, 2009 @ 12:01 pm | Reply

  11. The reality is that much of the school budget is salary and benfits. When you consider the whole package compared to a similar professional in the private sector they would have to make somewhere around $150k to be equivalent. The pension plan is a sweet (and expensive) deal.

    I’d love to pay good teachers more, but the stark reality is that the property tax payers have no more to give. It would be great t see the NEA fighting for funding from other sources. Start with Charlestown, they pay really low taxes.

    Oh, and taxpayers work hard too.

    Comment by Gene Daniell — May 3, 2009 @ 11:15 pm | Reply

  12. More “for the children” crap. We all work (well most of us), but if my company performed as poorly as Chariho does, I’d be unemployed, not getting raises. In fact, I do a great job, and haven’t seen a raise in a couple of years. I don’t whine…I work harder to make my company successful.

    You’re likely to get your wish Chariho. You can count on enough fools voting “for the children” to keep the gravy train on track. Since you have the option of making us vote over and over again until you eventually fool enough people, you’ll win, but let’s not pretend your “victories” have anything to do with children. As always, it’s about the employees, not the children.

    Comment by Curious Resident — May 4, 2009 @ 12:44 am | Reply

  13. Re #10: When Chariho performs in the 80 to 90 percentile bracket, I’ll be more than happy to pay good teachers good wages, until then, forget about it! I’m tired of the way teachers think, they want you to think that they are the only hard working professionals in this country. Not many hard working professionals get the plethora of benefits that teachers get. Being a teacher is the best paid part-time job going. I wish I got 13 +- weeks off per year. Heck, I’d be happy with just half of that!

    Comment by CharihoParent — May 4, 2009 @ 6:57 am | Reply

  14. There was an article in the December 15th 2008 New Yorker that is very relevant to the question of teachers and teachers pay. Just google on “Most Likely to Succeed”. For me, it spelled out clearly some of the things that are fundamentally problematic in our approch to selecting and paying teachers. It offers no obvious immediate practical solutions to a very serious national problem but it has food for thought. And thought is the first step in finding solutions.

    And if you’re a pro football fan it’s a good read too.

    I think that it reinforces the thought expressed from time to time in these postings: we’re not spending too much on education, we’re just not spending it wisely or efficiently. I particularly urge our school committee members to read the article.

    Comment by Thurman Silks — May 4, 2009 @ 7:56 am | Reply

  15. We tend to lump them all together, but it is important to note that the Chariho meal ticket isn’t just for teachers anymore. We now have psychlogists, guidance counselors, social workers, speech pathologists, and Lord knows whom else who have finagled high-paying, part time job reaching into the wallets of area families.

    With approximately 3,600 students in the Chariho system, theoretically we would only have 180 teachers (20:1 ratio) or less, but with a 11:1 teacher to student ratio, and an absurd amount of non-teaching leeches sucking blood from the community, I’m sure the number of employees under the teachers’ contract is significantly above 180.

    Comment by Curious Resident — May 4, 2009 @ 8:09 am | Reply

  16. The article referred to by Mr. Silks is excellent. The article refers to a teacher evaluation technique called “value added analysis”. This competency measurement is so simple to understand that I had actually discussed it with friend prior to reading this article and finding out it had an official name…I thought I had invented it. There goes my patent. 😉

    Here’s a direct link to the article followed by an excerpt:

    “Eric Hanushek, an economist at Stanford, estimates that the students of a very bad teacher will learn, on average, half a year’s worth of material in one school year. The students in the class of a very good teacher will learn a year and a half’s worth of material. That difference amounts to a year’s worth of learning in a single year. Teacher effects dwarf school effects: your child is actually better off in a “bad” school with an excellent teacher than in an excellent school with a bad teacher. Teacher effects are also much stronger than class-size effects. You’d have to cut the average class almost in half to get the same boost that you’d get if you switched from an average teacher to a teacher in the eighty-fifth percentile. And remember that a good teacher costs as much as an average one, whereas halving class size would require that you build twice as many classrooms and hire twice as many teachers.

    Comment by Curious Resident — May 4, 2009 @ 8:20 am | Reply

  17. CR,
    If memory serves, the number of teachers at Charhio is about twice that number.

    Comment by Bill Felkner — May 4, 2009 @ 9:57 am | Reply

  18. Right, 20:1 versus 11:1. And this is probably just classroom teachers. Are guidance counselors, psychologists, social workers, deans of students, and the other leeches on the same contract?

    Then again, since the School Committee rewards administrators based on teachers’ contracts, I guess they’re all one in the same anyway.

    Comment by Curious Resident — May 4, 2009 @ 10:01 am | Reply

  19. Hi!
    Obviously more accountability is needed. The problem is politically, those who have no financial interest in the schools who routinely support them it is on an emotional basis, not a rational one. In the world wide competition in learning we need marked improvement.
    I see the Rhode Island General Assembly have the CONSTITUTIONAL AUTHORITY to promote schools, but they continue to not fulfill the needs Rhode Island’s children and local property tax payers in this area.
    Locally in the the area not many want to run for school committee, limiting change or potential of change.

    Comment by Scott Bill Hirst — May 4, 2009 @ 2:58 pm | Reply

  20. Hi!
    Clearly the Hopkinton Town Web Site has some errors:
    It states the Financial Town Assembly is at Town Hall on May 5TH, which is tomorrow. It is at Hope Valley Elentary School, Thelma Drive, Hope Valley. Like to know starting time? Assume 7:00 P.M., possibly 7:30 P.M.,. It also notes Chariho Referendum is June 9TH, that is not correct it is a week from tomorrow Tuesday, May 12TH,.

    Comment by Scott Bill Hirst — May 4, 2009 @ 4:35 pm | Reply

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