Am. Samoa Teachers Demand Salary Increases

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Veteran educations not yet receiving new base salaries

By Joyetter Feagaimaalii-Luamanu

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa (The Samoa News, Feb. 26, 2015) – Some veteran educators in American Samoa are threatening to ‘walk out’ of the Department of Education (D.O.E) if it does not upgrade their salaries in accordance with the teacher’s new base salaries set by the Governor.

They are especially angry that while the American Samoa’s D.O.E has already done that for teachers from Samoa, American Samoa teachers have not had the same treatment.

The point was raised by the President of the Federation of American Samoa Educators (F.A.S.E), P. Ben Te’o, in a letter to Governor Lolo M. Moliga. The letter is also copied to D.O.E Director, Vaitinasa Salu Hunkin and Human Resources Director, Sonny Thompson.

The new base, Te’o is referring to, is US$23,000 (T$53,000) for teachers with Bachelor degrees and US$27,000 (T$62,000) for those with Masters.

"I cry foul! Principals, Vice Principals, Counselors and Veteran Teachers are still not paid with the new base," the letter reads. The F.A.S.E president pointed out that new teachers with BA and MA degrees — including contract teachers from Samoa — are now earning the new base pay set forth by the Governor, however there are still many veteran educators that are still earning below the base.

Te’o said in his letter that he’s been with D.O.E for nine years with a BA in financial accounting and an MA in education, and he is still earning US$23,500. "It is discouraging and sometimes embarrassing," he wrote.

As a Vice Principal at Leone High School, Te’o pointed out there are three counsellors with MAs; eight teachers with BAs and they are all still earning below the base.

He added that he’s been with D.O.E for nine years and has seen so many good teachers; counsellors and administrators leave D.O.E for greener pastures. The trend will continue until leaders of D.O.E and A.S.G listen and take positive corrective actions.

"Some of those veteran educators are even talking about quitting and walking out of classrooms," said Te’o.

The D.O.E Director in response told Samoa News that there are cases that are somehow caught up in the process or the A.S.G system and it has nothing to do with D.O.E.

She said she’s not blaming anyone as to who is at fault for the teachers not getting their salary increase, but D.O.E is looking into it at the moment.

Samoa News asked if the salaries of the teachers from Samoa have been adjusted and Vaitinasa said it’s done.

She said for any foreign degree holder applying to work for D.O.E, they undergo a review to see if their degree falls under the USDOE standards — and they do. She said that is why everyone from Samoa received the salary increase based on the teachers’ salary threshold. HR Director Sonny Thompson, in response to Samoa News queries, said that it’s his understanding that all those below the threshold of $23,000 (or $27,000, respectively) have already been adjusted in the system, however the other teachers who are already in the threshold — yet who have served the government for a long time — those people’s salaries have also been reviewed by his office.

He said they are waiting for the green light from the governor, as this reclassification will cost the government $5 million annually.

Thompson noted that the only salary adjustments that are pending before the governor for his approval and implementation are the raises for those who are already on the threshold, and who have been working at DOE for a very long time.

The HR director said he received the Te’o letter, and has asked Te’o to furnish the paper work for all the people he noted in his letter so his office can work on the adjustments. He further stated that when information like this reaches his office, it causes frustration because the people should get the salaries they deserve.

He also pointed out to other teachers, who have not had their salaries adjusted, they need to reach out to the teacher quality division, and follow the proper procedures in this process. However, if those teachers feel they have been given the runaround, then they can go directly to HR for assistance. The HR Director also confirmed that salary adjustments have been done for the teachers from Samoa. As Samoa News reported earlier, Governor Lolo Matalasi Moliga took issue with the salaries for teachers recruited from Samoa, saying in a letter to DOE Director, that teachers from Samoa were not being "properly compensated."

The letter, which was leaked to Samoa News, stated that Governor Lolo had only recently discovered this issue and he found it "very disconcerting based on the fact that we (the American Samoa Government) reached out to Samoa for teachers to teach Math and Science at our schools and yet they are not properly compensated predicated on their education credentials and years of teaching experience."

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