FCPS teachers ‘work to the contract’ in protest

Growing classroom sizes. Budget cuts. For the past few years, the job of an FCPS educator has only grown more demanding. The new reality of teaching in Fairfax County is little to no pay raise, more students per class and an increasing amount of work to be done out of school.

Pay has been stagnant over the years and the pace of new teacher evaluation systems isn’t slowing down. Teachers are also dealing with new complicated elementary school report cards, assessment tools that require more data and analysis, and the rollout of other troublesome technological tools, according to the Washington Post.

Teachers at Woodson have begun dressing down as a form of protest. Refusing to dress professionally, many teachers now sport hoodies and sweatpants similar to what most students are wearing. Teachers claim that they would rather spend the money on groceries instead of shopping for professional attire.

While FCPS contains 16 schools that received gold, silver or bronze in U.S New’s Best High School ranking, according to usnews.com, average teacher’s salary is lagging behind. In 2014 the average teacher’s salary in FCPS is $67,245, while the average salary in Arlington is $74,903, according to the Washington Post.

“I don’t think my pay is fair, not with the new requirements,” German teacher Sarah Zaniello said. “There’s more work, like recommendations, and the pay isn’t going up. The most discouraging thing is that [Fairfax County] used to be a leader, and now it’s losing ground and quality teachers.”

One protest, however, could affect students negatively. By only “working to contract” teachers would stop doing things like staying after school, writing college and honor society recommendation letters, chaperoning prom, sending emails, science and art fairs, travel and extra credit projects.

“I think it’s one good way to protest,” Zaniello said. “It was done before, but I’m not sure if it worked. But it sends a message.”

The goal of working only to contract is to draw the attention of Fairfax County officials in charge.

“I guess working to contract would only work if parents expressed their concern about this to the school board and to the people who decide the property tax rates,” psychology teacher Wilson Rowe said. “The pay is fair, but the concern is that it hasn’t gone up in several years while prices and taxes have,”

Some teachers don’t find “working to the contract” tactical.

“It doesn’t work, not really; it doesn’t impact the people who are gonna raise the pay,” English teacher Alison Rockmann said.

Teaching isn’t just teaching, she said. Standing up in front of the classroom and teaching is probably just one fourth of the job. It includes grading, extra help before and after school, personal coaching, writing recommendations, sending emails out and creating lesson plans.

Superintendent Karen Garza wishes to cut the positions of 700 staff positions to free up funds to increases teacher’s pay.

“We live in a very competitive marketplace,” Superintendent Karen Garza said in an interview on the Kojo Nnamdi show. “We also know that having the best teacher we possibly can have in every classroom, in any school organization, is mission critical. They are what makes things happen for our children. So, that has to be a priority for us, and that is to make sure that we’re being very competitive with our surrounding jurisdictions, that we keep our best teachers in our classrooms.”