Commentary: Setting the record straight

Why does everyone but public employees deserve a raise?

By F.G. Holland

I would like to correct a few misconceptions that I have read in letters to the editor this week.

Teachers do not get three months off in the summer. Teachers are employed for 10 months by contracts. The school year is set by the state legislature (when it starts and ends). Teachers have no control of the weather. Beginning salaries are mandated by law — counties can pay more than the beginning salary, but not less. Most teachers work between two to four weeks paid vacation).

Doctors, lawyers and other occupations pay more than teaching. Everyone who works for a living needs more money, and everyone who really works hard probably deserves a raise. No one blames hard-working people for asking for a raise — unless they are public employees. For some reason, people think everyone deserves a raise – except public employees.

Law enforcement, firefighters and emergency medical personnel protect lives and property and save lives everyday, often at great risk. The salary we pay these brave people is meager and shameful.

Teachers do the most important job in the world, they teach our children. All highly successful people always acknowledge their teachers, and thank the great teachers who inspired them.

During the 36 years I served as a teacher, coach, and principal in Greenbrier County, W.Va., we took up money at school for needy families. Everyone gave, and they gave generously. Our service personnel — bus drivers, cooks, custodians, secretaries, etc. — always gave as generously as the teachers, although they made a lot less. The service personnel are underpaid and underappreciated. They are an essential part of the schools.

Teachers work a lot of hours that the general public does not see. Nights, weekends, after school and snow days. They also show up at extracurricular activities. A lot of teachers come to school on snow days to work in their classrooms, and some work at home. I have seen, on several occasions, teachers come to the school on snow days to help our custodians clear the sidewalks and parking lots. We are all part of the team.

I have never known a teacher to make a lot of money. They love kids, love to teach, are dedicated to their kids and their profession. They protect their students by any means necessary – at all costs.

Teachers invest four or five years of their lives in school at a cost of $150,000 or more to become teachers. They go back to school every three years to renew their teaching certificate, improve their skills, and learn new skills and strategies.

Supervisor Cindy Bailey’s comments were ill advised, mean spirited, inappropriate and misleading.

We need more counselors in all schools. If we had more, we may be able to identify troubled students who may harm innocent people. In all of the school tragedies and the tornadoes in Oklahoma City, school personnel and others risked their lives, and many lost their lives, protecting students.

A lot of teachers and school personnel have bought school supplies, meals, shoes and clothes for their students. The teachers don’t want to be put on a pedestal for doing it, they love kids. That is what they do.

I do not know how much we can afford to pay our public employees, but I pray that we will always do the best we can for them. I do know that a little bit of respect goes a long, long way – and doesn’t cost a nickel.

I am almost 70 years old, and my journey is nearly done. Someday, I will go to Arlington National Cemetery, and I will meet my maker and be judged.

Due to my many failings as a human being, I am going to have to present my best case to have any chance of getting into heaven. I think that I will tell him that I was a teacher.

F.G. Holland is a Woodstock resident.