Sopuch: A teacher’s worth
No one becomes a teacher for the money. We become teachers because we hope to better our community and help others.
In Eagle County, all of us who teach in classrooms have our bachelors degrees and many of us have our masters degrees too. Unfortunately, we can’t pay rent with our degrees — in fact, we can barely afford rent at all.
To make matters worse, the county and our school district continue to insult us with our paychecks. It’s impossible for us to make ends meet, let alone build a life.
When I saw my first paycheck this year, I was concerned. I did not receive a pay raise, as is customary in every district, in every state, including this one. Thinking the dollar amount was incorrect, I reached out to human resources. The response I received was this: “Hello Sophia — I have attached the 2020-2021 salary schedule and the negotiated agreement. Unfortunately the district was not able to fund steps this year and therefore folks remained in their 2019-2020 step. We were only able to add 1.9% to the base cell.”
It’s been an unprecedented year where teachers were required to do more than they have ever been asked to before, yet our school board in March balked at a proposal to raise teacher salaries. Why? Because they said the money needs to be spent hiring new teachers. Yet, we can’t keep our teachers here. Do you see the problem?
Finally, after months of tense negotiations, the school district and the teachers union recently reached a final negotiations agreement on more than $7 million to fund equitable increases in staffing and compensation.
This winter, I moved into school district housing, which costs me $1,500 a month for a one-bedroom apartment in Eagle. School district housing is supposed to be the “affordable” housing option for us teachers.
This amount comes directly out of my paycheck, resulting in me taking home $600 every two weeks. How do you live in Eagle County on $1,200 a month? The simple answer is, you don’t.
Many beloved teachers are leaving the district this year, causing our superintendent to express his concern about the impending teacher shortage. Yet, what does our superintendent offer to bridge the gap? $150.
Eagle County School District has a referral signing bonus of $150 if an Eagle County School District employee refers a friend to work for the district. Additionally, the new employee must complete 30 days of employment before the original employee would be paid.
As an educator of six years and a middle school teacher in the district, I find this dollar amount and message insults the profession.
Instead of working backwards, how can we work forward? How can we better invest in the shrinking number of educators that remain?
In our community, $150 is not an investment. Furthermore, I like my friends and would prefer to keep them so I will not be referring them to work for Eagle County Schools this year.
Sophia Sopuch teaches English to middle schoolers at Vail Ski and Snowboard Academy.