Teachers make a difference

The following teachers had a profound impact on my life: Mrs. Broccoli, my second-grade teacher at Sunrise Elementary in Albany; Mr. Ford, the after-school activities coordinator at Jefferson Park Elementary in Tucson; Paul Nys, my eighth-grade science teacher at Calapooya Junior High in Albany; Bob DeJong, my 10th-grade biology teacher at Tillamook High School and my varsity basketball coach; Mr. Christie, my senior geometry teacher and my college trigonometry teacher; and Ms. Lloyd, my 11th-grade physics teacher.

These teachers made a memorable impression on me, and I learned a fair amount from them.

Teachers make a difference in our children's lives. They are gifted individuals, and one of their strengths is connecting with young people.

I am writing now because the Ashland School District's contract with our teachers is up for renewal. Negotiations on this contract were extremely positive and collaborative.

Beginning the last week of March, we have had trainings on collaborative negotiations and numerous meetings with teachers, administrators, board members and union representatives. Our final negotiating session was May 24. To briefly summarize the experience, it was enlightening and positive working with professionals who sincerely care about children and expect to be paid fairly for their time.

Ironically, less than 24 hours after we reached agreement, the state of Oregon released an updated revenue forecast that showed the state has significantly less revenue than expected. The governor announced that all state-funded programs, including schools, will receive less money for 2010 to 2011. This means approximately $1.1 million less revenue from the state for the Ashland School District.

Ashland's teachers will receive a 3.25 percent step or 3 percent longevity increase plus a 2 percent COLA. At first glance, this might appear generous. What most residents may not realize is that for the past two years our teachers have agreed to accept less than what the district was contractually obligated to pay them. Their salary reductions have helped the school district during the difficult financial times, and for next year, 2010 to 2011, they will be paid a normal salary.

It is also important to note that, given the economic uncertainty, the district and teachers both agreed to reopen salary negotiations during the spring of 2011, when we will have better financial forecasts.

Please join me in acknowledging the profound impact that all Ashland School District staff have on our youth. These are special people that our children will remember forever.

Keith Massie is the chair of the Ashland School Board.

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