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Asks that teachers do more to earn the increase

By Oyaol Ngirairikl HAGÅTÑA, Guam (Pacific Daily News, Feb. 1, 2012) – The governor is offering to increase teachers’ salaries in return for their help in supervising students in hallways and school cafeterias, cleaning classrooms, and other jobs that "the union forbids you from performing... that teachers across the country perform."

"I’d like to make a deal with you," he said in last night’s State of the Island Address at the Legislature. "If you take on (these) duties ... your pay will increase collectively by the amount saved within (the Department of Education’s) budget."

The comments about changing public school teachers’ duties and working conditions, classroom sizes, and other issues typically addressed by the teachers’ union contract roused some of the loudest applause from principals, administration personnel and others who attended the address held at the legislative Session Hall.

But those changes could do more harm than good to the island’s already "dismal" public education system, warned Guam Federation of Teachers Union President Matt Rector. He also noted that the savings Calvo refers to would be found after school aides and other support staff – who typically monitor hallways, playgrounds and cafeterias – are fired.

"We’d do a lot better by first ensuring the school system is properly funded, that students have textbooks, and that teachers are paid competitive wages, but also given the support so they don’t have to purchase classroom supplies using thousands of dollars of their own money," Rector said.

Rector said the union contract provides checks and balances by requiring teachers to focus on teaching and holding the department accountable for ensuring teachers are paid competitive salaries and given the support they need to educate students.

Following yesterday’s speech, Speaker Judith Won Pat, D-Inarajan, said as a former school principal herself, she’s had her "ups and downs" with the union.

"But the one thing I always have to go back to is why the unions are there... They are there to protect the teachers, the employees from being abused by management," she said. "We won’t need the union if we take care of our employees."

Won Pat did add, however, that she agrees that there are areas where the union contract can be improved.

Sen. Ben Pangelinan, D-Barrigada, said the governor is making the union out to be a "bogeyman."

"He’s managed to kind of contradict himself," he said. "If we need to teach our kids then maybe we shouldn’t have the teachers cleaning the rooms, we should have them teach. I think he’s found a bogeyman to scare everybody, and that’s the one thing I don’t think we need. We need to face the reality of what we have and how we’re going to deal with our limited resources," he said.

Proposed contract Francis Santos, Guam Education Board chairman, said the contract does have a large impact on Guam DOE – and not just with its budget but also with the administration’s effectiveness in managing the department’s resources.

"The union contract has inhibited the superintendent in her ability to move and transfer personnel to other areas of the department, and make other decisions needed to ensure that schools – and the students they serve – are properly supported," he said.

Much of the provisions the governor proposed last night echo changes the board has proposed since negotiations with GFT for a new contract started last year. The most recent contract expired in November.

The proposal also included a requirement that teachers work eight hours, which would allow for teachers to meet with parents, conduct Individualized Education Plan meetings for students with disabilities, and participate in department meetings and professional development, the release stated.

According to Guam DOE officials, elementary school teachers are paid for an eight-hour day but are required to be at the school for six hours under the recently expired contract. Middle and high school teachers are required to be at school for seven hours. Minus the time allowed for preparation or lunch, elementary school teachers are required to be in the classrooms for 21.67 hours a week. That increases to 25 hours a week for middle and high school teachers.

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