I’ve wronged teachers before in this space and suffered the consequences of their considerable wrath, even if it was sometimes misspelled and grammatically incorrect.
So, after last week’s column about retired teachers earning extra cash by going back into the classroom, I was expecting a torrent of vitriol and vituperation from teachers middle-aged and old accusing me of once again slandering their fine profession.
Instead, their rage was muted. Maybe none of them could think of a way to defend pensioned retirees also collecting a salary without sounding like a … well, unemployed English teachers can fill in that blank.
The people I did hear from had some interesting perspectives on the issue of how teachers are hired in this province.
Actually, “issue” might be an exaggeration. There is no issue, at least according to Education Minister Joan Burke and Lily Cole, president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association (NLTA).
But with so many stories, accusations and complaints circulating, they probably have substance. Surely they can’t all be the result of the disappointment or bitterness of those who have been unsuccessful in getting teaching jobs.
Burke and Cole rely on their position and authority to declare the hiring of teachers is fair and done according to the rules.
You have to wonder about that, when auditor general John Noseworthy states in his report to the House of Assembly that 443 retired teachers earned a total of $5.2 million in salary, over and above their pension cheques.
The first obvious and reasonable question is, are principals giving substitute and temporary positions to their friends and former co-workers?
One reader likened this extra cash to the “misappropriation” of funds by some MHAs.
Another wrote, “The gravy train and this culture of entitlement is alive and well in N.L.”
Here’s a comment that NLTA president Cole should pay special attention to: “When John Noseworthy made his announcement re hiring practices of teachers, my husband’s comment was, ‘That is why our daughter couldn’t get a job and had to move away.’”
She went on: “I would love for her to come home, but always her response has been that she wants to work in her chosen field and could not live on working the odd sub day per month and working at retail.”
Another reader wrote, “The young N.L. teachers with degrees are working in catering, nightclubs, etc. because the substitute positions they are lucky to get cannot sustain their lives. How saddened they must feel when they are turned down repeatedly for teaching positions.”
The NLTA’s seeming lack of concern about this issue can’t be doing much for its public image. The teachers’ association appears to be protecting its own members of the club, while ignoring those who aspire to join it.
Several readers pointed out the incongruity of Burke’s and Cole’s claim that “qualified” teachers often couldn’t be found to fill the positions offered to retirees.
Many of today’s retirees got jobs in the 1960s and ’70s without even having a university degree, let alone an education degree.
These days, many of the young teachers searching for jobs have two undergraduate degrees, or even a master’s degree. In 25 words or less, describe “irony.”
I received a 1,000-word email from a teacher. According to him, nepotism and favouritism is rampant in the education system.
My column, he said, “only scratches the surface of corruption regarding teacher placement by school boards across the province.” Teachers are generally afraid to speak out, and NLTA officials are mostly concerned with their own ambitions of climbing the career ladder, he said.
Brian Jones is a desk editor at The Telegram. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.