Monday, April 9, 2007
Borja exempts principals, vice principals from pay cut. I take no offense in Congressman Quitugua's assertion that administrators should share in the crusade to save our government much needed funding by taking a voluntary pay cut. In fact, I have made suggestions during our princpals' meetings that administrators be included in the austerity efforts and that support staff be exempted. While it is important to have someone on campus to ensure that operations run effectively and efficiently, this week has been an eye opener for me. Spring break is a time, like in all homes, for schools to do some much needed cleaning up. I have learned to do many things in the 13 years that I've been at GES, but operating the riding mower and servicing the air-conditioners is not one of them. Sparing the support staff would greatly increase morale and provide the much needed services to our facilities that are required to keep a school running safely and orderly. It would cost the PSS the same amount of money too.
Getting back to the article however, I have to argue that this austerity holiday plan has become a major nightmare, and that it is not just in the PSS that there is so much confusion as to who is vital or not, who is exempted or not. If our CNMI is going to band together and work in unison, then for crying out loud, let's ALL take a cut together. ALL of us!
What the exemptions have done is pit people against one another and cause such a feeling of animosity between agencies and colleagues that it becomes detrimental to the proper functioning of any organization. What this plan has also done is decrease the effectiveness of the government as a whole. NO ONE CAN GET ANYTHING DONE NOWADAYS. If austerity holiday falls on Friday, Thursday is off too? Give me a break. Oh wait, you did. Twice. The essential public services we rely on are anything but dependable anymore. Is the idea to save money at all cost? Even productivity? Even our reputation?
I must also air my own vehemently frustrated opinion about Congressman Quitugua's statement that "principals and vice principals are highly paid and they should join other personnel in this sacrifice". Has the good congressman ever reviewed the PSS pay scale? There is about a three thousand dollar difference between a Highly Qualified Teacher's pay at the top of the scale and a principal's salary. Not to mention the number of working days (teachers get breaks) and the opportunity that teachers have to earn extra pay. I have much respect for teachers, especially having been one myself. Teachers who receive HQT salaries deserve them, there is no question. Administrators in the CNMI make 25 grand less than the average principal on the mainland. I have stood before the PTA and said things like, "spend quality time with your children...only 30 minutes a day reading to your child...your role as a parent is crucial to your child's development..." and wondered if my own children had eaten dinner yet, how my daughter was doing on her school project, when the last time I read to my 2 year old was. My vice principal is making the same amount of money, like others I know, than he could in the classroom. The same salary, minus the intersessions and vacations. The same salary, plus the extra time he has to spend away from his family. But/and, like the teachers, both of us have been diligently working towards (administrators') certificates, spending our "big bucks" on classes that begin as soon as the work week ends and continue into Saturday morning. And yes, we both hold valid teaching certificates and have passed Praxis I and II.
I also respect the Board and it's members, but come on! We don't make decisions in bubbles. I am so tired of directives coming down the mountain like they were sent down from heaven. Real, flesh and blood people are involved here. At least our commissioner has given us the opportunity to air our concerns and speak our minds. We don't always get what we want, but we get to bitch and moan about it and dig our teeth into things until we are satisfied or outright denied. But the legislature? The board? How many of you have set foot on my campus asking questions about how we're doing, getting to know us, asking for our input? Today, Congressman Dela Cruz's staff is cleaning our fence area, because our maintenance is on their austerity week. Sometimes, Congressman Waki's folks are cutting tree limbs and bush cutting. Senator Reyes (say what you will) and Congressman Yumul share their own limited funds with us so we can buy toilet paper that isn't in our budget! Lee Taitano has often cornered me and asked me some brain-crushingly hard questions. We don't always agree, but we agree that it's important to talk. If anything, these people are qualified to wag their fingers at me, they've atleast built relationships that earned them as much right.
Congressman Quitugua: tell principals and vice principals that it is our job to multi-task, that it is our responsibility to manage every aspect of school operations, even that the success of our system lies heavily on our shoulders. But, don't ever make the foolish and presumptuous mistake of flippantly telling us that, "that's what we get the big bucks" for! Especially until your all your colleagues walk the talk!