Middle school teachers upset over pay inequities

Anchorage Middle School teachers are upset about pay and workload inequities between elective teachers and core subject teachers and the divisions it’s causing in the schools. ¬†They have brought the issue to the School Board.¬†

Some middle school English, science, math, and social studies teachers are being asked to teach six periods per day instead of five to reduce class sizes. They’ll give up one period of planning time. In return, they’ll receive an extra 20 percent of their salary and will be expected to do their planning outside of school hours. But elective teachers already teach six periods instead of five without being paid any additional money.

A group of teachers packed the room at Monday night’s school board meeting to speak about the issue. Hanshew Middle School social studies teacher Nancy Neil says it’s unfair to pay core teachers more for teaching the same number of classes as elective teachers.

“As a core teacher, I have seen a division between core team members and elective teachers. This is not right. I’m a true believer in equity.”

According to the traditional middle school model, core subject teachers work as a team and all have the same group of students. They are given daily team planning time so that they can collaborate. That’s on top of their personal planning time. Middle School teachers are the only ones in the district that have two planning periods instead of one. Last spring, the School Board voted to take the team planning period away from elective teachers, who teach students from every team, but keep the extra planning period for the core teachers.

Some elective teachers, like Nadine Price from Wendler Middle School, say teaching six periods makes it hard to connect with students and share information with other teachers and staff.

“The Anchorage School District on one hand promotes social and emotional learning, yet in the specific classes where this is most apt to occur — electives — the educators are not being given the time or the resources to support their students. These teachers are caught not knowing what’s going on with their students lives and educational plans.”

ASD Chief Academic Officer Mike Graham says the district recognizes that some teachers are upset and does not want divisions in the schools. He says middle school principals plan to meet on Monday to discuss the issue and the value of team planning time.

“What needs to happen is real communication within the school internally as well as without –what’s really happening with that team planning time? Is it worth it? Is it equitable? Is the amount of work that’s going into that making a difference? If it’s not, we shouldn’t be doing it.”

Graham says principals are supposed to be monitoring how core teachers are using their team planning period and holding them accountable. He says it is also up to the principals to help the elective teachers get information about the students from the core teachers.

The Anchorage Education Association is considering filing a grievance against the district over the pay inequities.

Middle school team planning time is currently part of next year’s school budget, but only for core teachers. The budget will be discussed during Monday night’s school board meeting.

Anne Hillman is the healthy communities editor at Alaska Public Media and a host of Hometown, Alaska. Reach her at ahillman@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Anne here.

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