PITTSFIELD, Mass. — The latest personnel report has the School Committee concerned about keeping teachers in the city schools.
The reported was shared by Superintendent Jason McCandless at last Wednesday's meeting. School Committee member William Cameron noted that some of the exiting employees were only hired at the beginning of the school year.
"There was a group called Buffalo Springfield and they had a song called 'For What It's Worth' and the opening lines were 'There's something happening here, What it is ain't exactly clear,'" he said. "We have resignations here a month into the school year from a number of people that may have started at the beginning of the school year can you tell us what is going on here?"
McCandless said there are some retirees within the group of outgoing employees but there are also recent hires who found a better opportunity elsewhere or who were not up to some of the challenges the school district faces.
"Some of these folks have been with us a long time and the time was right," he said. "But some of these folks never even started and they took a more attractive offer elsewhere and we never even saw them."
He said Pittsfield Public Schools is an urban school district in "America's premier cultural resort" and what it offers is not for everybody.
"We are not just teaching them math, English, history, and science," he said. "We are teaching 360 degrees and building human beings in a community, nation, and world."
He said some of these new employees just did not work out.
In general, there is a shrinking applicant pool to pick from in Berkshire County with fewer young people opting to take careers in education, McCandless said, adding that there are 1 million students in the commonwealth and less than 20,000 people preparing to teach them.
McCandless said wages are also an issue in the district and that Pittsfield does not offer competitive salaries. He hopes to leverage the recent influx of state money to address this.
Pittsfield's salary range is in the bottom third of the county and, in the state, he estimated it was in the bottom 10 percent.
"We lost a handful of teachers late in the game to Mount Greylock that is just a fact when you compare their salary schedule for veteran teachers with master's degree-plus to ours, it can be as much as a $20,000 a year difference," he said.
In the past 10 years, he said their salaries have regressed.
"A few short years ago, we laid off like 68 people from the district," he said. "We had people not taking raises for years at a time so we have some catch up to do."
Before closing, the committee tabled a $6,100 donation from the Allendale Parent-Teacher Organization to purchase new cafeteria tables.
Mayor Linda Tyer stopped the vote because she thought this was something the district should purchase
"I appreciate this so much ... but I wish we were buying these so that the Parent-Teacher Organization could use this gift for enhanced experiences for the kids," she said.
McCandless agreed and said he found that there is a "deficit mentality" in the school district and people are often afraid to ask for things. He said he, too, would rather the PTO use the money for something their "heart was in."
He agreed with the mayor that new cafeteria tables should be the district's responsibility and it will make it happen this school year. He added that he was positive the PTO could find a great use for the money that was more exciting.
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