Pay attracts best teachers | Sound Off

Why is it that in our society, we believe in competitive pay in business and industry, but not necessarily in our schools? Mr. Bill Burnett’s recent Sound Off advocates cutting teachers’ pay to the point that Oak Harbor would be the lowest paying school district in the state. Does he really think that makes for better schools?

We are teachers at Oak Harbor High School, each of us in our early teaching years and each of us pouring heart and soul into our classrooms to help kids grow as life-long learners. Together, we’re responsible for our phenomenal high school choirs, our state champion culinary team and our innovative robotics program. And the truth is, if Mr. Burnett had his way, not one of us would be here. Like in business, no one is drawn to work for the lowest pay in the field.

Oak Harbor is a wonderful and supportive community. We can testify to the many ways this community helps our schools and our programs. But keep in mind, we would never have been drawn to Oak Harbor if it did not offer competitive pay compared to other communities in the area. In most cases -– especially when you have college loans to pay -– you accept the best offer.

Oak Harbor does not offer a Cadillac plan to teachers. Pay and benefits here are about average; slightly more than Coupeville and South Whidbey, quite a bit less than Anacortes and Mount Vernon. Not a penny of that is “gifted” (as Mr. Burnett claims). Every penny is more than earned.

We put in the hundreds of extra hours needed for kids to get the best hands-on training and to be visible in the community whenever possible. Our choirs are on stage, at community events, and even in the streets in full zombie dress. Our culinary program is second to none, with Wildcat Catering often called upon to provide culinary treats at special events. Robotics Club is an after-school activity, offering $15 million in scholarships and guaranteed job consideration from employers. All these things require time freely given by teachers willing to go way beyond any normal workday.

Here are a few levy facts that Mr. Burnett got wrong. First, the local levy is not more expensive here due to large tracts of federal land. It is far less expensive. In fact, Oak Harbor has one of the lowest levies in the state. On average, other communities pay four times more than Oak Harbor for schools.

Impact Aid helps make that possible. But even combining Impact Aid and the local levy, Oak Harbor does not come close to the state average. (Again, Mr. Burnett is wrong). Even combined, we are $600 per student below the state average and we provide far less to our students than other military communities.

We love Oak Harbor. Each of us is grateful to be working with these kids, in this wonderful high school, and in this community. We feel it’s important, however, to keep a little perspective on how we fit in with the rest of the region and the state. We may be on an island, but acting as if we are isolated from others would be a big mistake.

Darren McCoy

Choir Teacher/Director

Mary Arthur

Culinary Arts Teacher/Advisor

Che Edoga

Robotics and Biology Teacher


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