Weekly Math Updates

January 16 , 2008


  • Deseret News Editorial - "Average Isn't Acceptable"
  • ASD's "teachers" on staff at the district office (bloated???)
  • Corrections office (please help)
  • Media Articles - The Secret to Raising Smart Kids (MUST READ)

Deseret News Article - "Average Isn't Acceptable"

In Monday's Des News an editorial entitled 'Average Isn't Acceptable" was published which brought up some good points.


Utah is barely above national average for our scores and that's not acceptable.
We need a real leader to stand up and say we're doing a moon shot on education (my words)
Also mentioned was the lack of funding for education

First, as one commenter pointed out, the legislators tried to do something radical to fix education last session.  It was called vouchers and it came with funding for public schools that was not currently in the system.  The union rejected it because it would let their captured audience leave, even though for 5 more years they'd keep a large portion of the funds that would have gone with that child.

Second, can anyone honestly say that our districts are not bloated bureaucracies that need greater reform at the top before trying to fix the bottom?  It's like a doctor putting a band-aid on a cut, while the skin below it is turning green from infection. 

Third, raising teacher pay across the board last year by $2500 was great for the good and the bad teachers. It caused base salaries to go up which is good.  However, there are some obvious problems with this.  We still can't get rid of the truly bad teachers that don't care about our kids and don't care about teaching.  The solution to this is merit pay and figuring out a system that eliminates tenure but still gives assurances that teachers have a process of job removal that they can feel confident about not being involved in witch hunts and that it's just the bad teachers we want removed.  Filling a teacher slot with a bad egg because we need a body there is not an acceptable improvement to our schools.

I encourage you to send letters to the editor of the Deseret News at letters@desnews.com and express your views on the editorial above. They are setting up the legislature to pressure them to bring up Utah's pay system, but certain milestones need attached to make the system really get moving in the right direction.

ASD's "teachers" on staff at the district office

Now after reading the editorial, I decided to dig in on a project I haven't really wanted to do. At www.UtahsRight.com, you can find the salary of most any public employee by name and group.  I pulled up ASD's salaries to do a little research and found some interesting things.  Some of them were encouraging and others were troubling. There’s not a convenient way to download the stats, so after copy/pasting 90 pages on ASD and being in the annual salary range of under $8,000 (I was well into hourly employees) I quit and opted not to compound the numbing in my fingers.

I then went to ASD’s website to see what the pay schedule is for teachers.  This year the starting salary for a teacher in ASD with a B.S. degree (not the constructivist kind) is $30,001.  The one dollar represents the intent to say they’re now paying “over” $30,000 starting salary...just kidding.  I’m not sure why the base salary is listed as $28,023 and then the higher figure is the lowest starting salary but maybe it’s in benefits and insurance or something.  It’s not relevant to what I’m doing.

Last year the base was listed as $25,522 so the increase was $2,500 per teacher per the legislation that passed to increase all teacher salaries across the board.  This is mildly important to note since the spreadsheet with my data has so many low dollar amounts on it and most of these are for part-time teachers.

Out of 6,335 employees listed in the database, only 3,000 have a salary over $25,000.  There are full time employees paid less than this amount and since I’m not 100% sure what year these salaries relate to, I’m going to chop off everything under the $23,000 mark to do the analysis below.

The first item to note on the site is Superintendant Henshaw’s salary is listed at $164,000.  I know that his salary is actually over $180,000 and that is due to either one or two raises in the last couple years because the board is enthralled with Henshaw and don't want to lose him.  I believe he has announced retiring in a year or two so whoever is on the board will have the ability to find a replacement for him.  I hope some of you are heavily considering running so we have a better board to review such an important appointment.

So here are a few statistics I discovered while analyzing the data.  There are several different departments that can be classified as administration but they are called different things.

Total Annual Salaries # employees Average Salary
Administration  $         2,043,985.00               34  $    60,117.21
Business Services  $         1,284,225.00               24  $    53,509.38
Data Services  $            482,350.00                 9  $    53,594.44
Educational Services  $         4,630,073.00               84  $    55,119.92
Human Resources  $            408,383.00                 8  $    51,047.88
Student Support Services  $            481,266.00               10  $    48,126.60
Technology Dept.  $         1,212,049.00               34  $    35,648.50
 $       10,542,331.00             203

The departments with troubling and immediate issues as I looked at employees line by line were Administration and Educational Services.

Among the Administration are several people who are not shown as having a department title such as "Administration",, etc... but are shown with a number of 1, 2, or 3.  Three of these individuals I found through Google to be employeed at BYU and one of them is on the CITES committee.  The three are being paid between $41,000 and $66,000 and I am left to wonder if this is in addition to their BYU salary and they are paid a hefty consulting fee by the district.  The CITES person is most troubling in this respect.  His name is Samuel Rencher.  The other two BYU employees are Hollie K. Carlson and Heather A. Jensen.  The total number of "teachers" working in Administration are nine and this will come into play momentarily.

Next of concern was the Ed Services department.  There are 84 employees in this department and 45 of them are listed as "Teachers".  The salary range for these teachers goes from $27,000 to $87,000 with an average around $56,000.  Not bad for a teacher where many of them never go into classrooms to teach.  These are the people that have helped the district write supplementary curriculum because the district selections were so lacking.

Also by classifying these 54 teachers (9 & 45) as teachers working in the district office, the district successfully touts ad administrative payroll that is nearly $3,000,000 less for admin because these are teacher dollars going into the classroom.  I'm about 80% positive that's how this works out for them based on what I've heard.  If these teachers actually worked full time in classrooms instead of for the district, we could handle another 1400 students in the system without hiring anyone new.  OR, better yet, we could fire them and move control of teaching down to the local level where proven programs were used and we didn't need curriculum writers in the district and the $3,000,000 that would be saved could be distributed as another raise to all 2,300 full time teachers totalling an average of $1300 per teacher.

Is there more bloat?  You bet but my analysis focused on this low hanging fruit.  If we were to move to a system where community councils had more authority and could really make local changes happen and shift some responsibility down from the district to the schools so that principals actually knew what their budget was (they don't currently), we could eliminate quite a few more unneccessary jobs at district offices and pass the savings down to the classrooms to give teachers better pay and incentive to take those jobs.

Imagine if all the big districts did this and split for more local control and less burueacracy.  Millions of dollars could be pushed down to the classroom level for teachers.

Corrections office

Yesterday I received a troubling call about the plight of corrections officers working at the prison.  The initial report was so bad I thought I'd contact someone I knew that worked there to verify the story with him.

My email to him was:

I heard today from someone that the prison staff is about 300 people undermanned and that people were being put on lengthy shifts and hours like 80-90 hour weeks and quite a few days without time off. I was also told that there hasn't been a COLA pay adjustment in several years for corrections staff. Can you verify any of this for me?

Here is his reply:

Actually the number is probably closer to 150 short. This, of course, causes the need for overtime by the other staff. Some do put in a lot of overtime that could put their hours high but mandatory overtime has not happened yet. Scheduling for time off has to be pre-planned and sometimes doesn't work out.

As for cost of living, we have got the same as other state employees, which has been a little for the past couple of years. But a few years ago (before I started) there was a dry spell for 4 or 5 years.

The big problem here for us officers is the pay difference between us and the county jails. They pay more for correction officers. So what happens is the state pays for the POST training and then they leave for county jails. I blame this on the legislators. To keep us here, the pay needs to be close to what other correctional officers are paid throughout the state.

I also blame, indirectly, the legislators and past governors for the death of Officer Anderson last year. Because of the lack of staff, they sent only one officer on the transportation runs, and thus the officer was overpowered by the inmate.

Other problems are the lack of experienced officers here that know better the ropes and games the inmates play. They leave or retire. Us greenies are left.

With all the shouting about better pay for teachers I'd like to request that you email your legislators and ask them to address this issue and pump some additional funding into the prison system so that pay for employees is at least equal to county employees levels so we don't have a "train and drain" situation and we keep experienced people at the prison who understand how everything operates.  As for Officer Anderson, I remember this event last year and thought why didn't they send an extra person?  The answer was staff shortages due to lack of funding.

Media Articles

Utah Shops Online for Teachers

"The State Office of Education, faced with a teacher shortage, is paying about $100,000 a year to online service Teachers-Teachers.com to help it recruit teachers."

New School Rule: Skip Homework Still Get Grade

The Secret to Raising Smart Kids (MUST READ)

Till next time,

Oak Norton

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