By Melissa Laker and Jhacquelle Swaby
Roosevelt High School teachers have received zero per cent in raises for 11 of the last 18 years and are now fighting for fair wages after their board cancelled three salary negotiation meetings this year alone.
Roosevelt teachers have fallen to #57 out of 57 schools in Nassau County, in terms of average pay, according to figures from 2013 and 2014. Their average salary, based on 10 to 12 years of service and a Masters degree, sits $20,000 behind the average in Nassau County of $102,000, at $82,000.
President of Roosevelt’s Teachers’ Association, Jeff Pullen, who retired from Roosevelt High School in 1998 after 29 years of service, is concerned with the board’s cancellations.
“I have been retired now for 18 years and during that time they have only negotiated with the teachers five times,” Pullen said. “They’re not expecting to be paid like a Jericho, Merrick, Great Neck or North Shore. They do expect not to have the board ignore them for 11 years out of 18. If they got a 1 or 2% raise each one of those years that they got a zero they would be much further ahead at this point,” said Pullen.
“Teachers are the most important ingredient that sets academic success in schooling. They need to be treated with respect and provided adequate compensation that matches their peers if we are to recruit and retain the best teacher workforce,” President and Researcher of Teacher Salaries at the Economic Policy Institute, Lawrence Mishel said.
In an effort to gain the attention of the school board, over 45 Roosevelt teachers gathered in a demonstration on Thursday January 26th. The demonstration involved 13 teachers who held up signs in the windows of the library and 35 other teachers, including heads of faculties, who attended a school board meeting inside.
“The whole reason for the demonstration was sparked by the fact that the board kept making dates to negotiate and would then cancel them last minute,” Jeff Pullen said.
Before the beginning of the current school year, the Roosevelt School District Board of Education accepted a proposal for teacher contracts.
“However, the teachers voted down the settlement that their own bargaining team had presented to the Board for approval,” Roosevelt Superintendent, Marnie Hazelton, said in a statement. “The Roosevelt School District is currently working with the Teacher’s Union to arrive at a mutually beneficial agreement, which will support our shared mission to provide students with the resources to excel in the classroom and beyond.”
Graduated Roosevelt High School students are among those most concerned about the treatment of their past educators.
“They are constantly asked to do more with less, they are disrespected, and the teacher evaluation tool is used as a hammer to get more from them so they work in fear,” Roosevelt High School alumna, Glenda Sanchez, said. “They are the lowest paid teachers on all of Long Island, yet they still do their jobs effectively and with a great deal of love and dedication to their students,” she said.
Social media users, including Roosevelt teachers, were quick to respond to the issue.
“What was offered was an absolute disgrace, and now they refuse to negotiate!” Roosevelt High School teacher, Melissa Mohan, shared in a Facebook post. “My colleagues and I go above & beyond on a daily basis and we are totally disrespected by this board. But I still show up every day & give my heart and soul to my students,” Mohan continued.
After several attempts at contacting Ms Mohan and other Roosevelt staff for further comment, there has been no response.
Roosevelt teachers are hoping that this demonstration will solidify a date for their negotiation meeting of their salary and also start a statewide move toward fairer teacher salaries.