Thanks to the always excellent work of Trish Powell Crain with AL.com, we now know where Huntsville City School teachers rank in comparison to the other systems in the state.
It isn’t good news.
When we compare ourselves to the rest of the state by the percentage of teachers holding a Master’s degree or higher, Huntsville City comes in at #129 out of 138 (bottom 10%) with 54% holding a Master’s degree or higher.
When we compare ourselves to the rest of the state by years teaching, Huntsville City is still sitting at #126 out of 138 (bottom 10%) with 9.8 years teaching on average. By the way, the 12 districts that have a lower average of years teaching have a total of 1,847 teachers in all 12 combined. Huntsville alone has 1,452 teachers.
Finally when we compare our average teacher salary, we’re right in the middle of the state at #65 out of 138 with an average salary of $45,021.
Comparing Apples to Apples
So, is it fair to comparison Huntsville City Schools with the sixth largest teaching staff to districts that have fewer than fifty teachers? After all, we have schools with more teachers than that. (Actually most of our schools have more than 50 teachers.)
So how might we make this a fair comparison?
What if we compared Huntsville City to the top ten districts by number of teachers employed? Where does HCS compare then?
Well with 1,452 teachers, Huntsville City is the 6th largest district in the state. We’re behind Mobile County by about half, followed by Jefferson County, Montgomery County, Baldwin County, and Birmingham City. The rest of the top ten are rounded out with Shelby County, Madison County, Tuscaloosa County, and Hoover City which is the end of districts with over 1,000 teachers employed.
Compared with only those ten districts, care to guess where Huntsville City shows up on teacher education, years experience, and salary?
With 54% of our teachers holding a Master’s degree or higher, Huntsville City is dead last. Number 9, Baldwin County, clocks in at 60%.
With 9.8 years of teaching experience, Huntsville City is again, dead last among the 10 largest districts in the state. Montgomery County is the sitting at number 9 with 10.5 years experience on average.
Seeing a trend yet? Anyone want to bet where we stand in salary when compared with the ten largest districts in the state?
Yep, dead last again. At an average of $45,021 per teacher, Huntsville City pays $844 per year less than #9 Tuscaloosa County which pays $45,865.
Compared to Madison County and Madison City?
When we compare our numbers to Madison County and Madison City, we’re again dead last in education (both Madison City and Madison County have 62% of their teachers holding a Master’s Degree or higher), dead last in years experience (Madison City has 11.4 years on average and Madison County has 13.5 years on average), and of course dead last in salary (Madison City pays $47,480 on average while the County pays $48,641).
Is it any wonder why so many of our most experienced and most highly trained teachers have fled from Huntsville City to the Madison systems over the past five years?
The Wardynski, Ferrell, Wilder, McGinnis Effect
So how did we get here? Remember how often Wardynski, under the watchful eye of the three remaining board members who vehemently supported him during his tenure, told us that we shouldn’t believe our own eyes when we continually saw our teachers fleeing the system? If not, here are some examples:
For years, Wardynski told the board or education, which included Elisa Ferrell, Beth Wilder, and Walker McGinnis, repeatedly that any claims that our teachers were leaving an an abnormal rate was completely false. Fake news, if you will.
And they believed him despite the evidence they saw and approved every two weeks in the Human Resources reports.
They were pleased with these reports. As Ms. Ferrell claimed once when asked about the constant turnover of administrators and teachers, she bragged that this system is better than the one under Dr. Moore.
In other words, Dr. Wardynski was doing exactly what those three (and Dr. Jennie Robinson, David Blair, and Laurie McCaulley earlier in the process) wanted him to do: run off our most experienced teachers.
And our children are left behind to try and recover from the path of destruction they left behind.
What We Can Do?
First, as parents, you can go out of your way to be supportive of your teachers. Dr. Wardynski is nearly the only person I know of who went into education for the money. Most educators do it because they love teaching and they love kids. Remembering this, and supporting your kids teachers will go a long way toward helping this situation.
Second, we need to make education a priority in our district again. We don’t need to spend money on TV ads to convince people that HCS is great if we are spending our money on making it great by supporting our teachers.
Finally, we’ve taken what appears to be a significant first step to repairing this problem with the hiring of an educator as Superintendent. Dr. Akin appears to be working to take us in the right direction again. As such, and as long as this is the case, he deserves our unwavering support.
If we take this problem seriously, if the district is willing to allows parents to participate as partners rather than as merely problems to be covered up, we can fix it.
Our teachers are the lifeblood of our district. If we make them and their education and experience a priority again, it will help our students succeed and return our district to the heights we once knew.