Monday, April 29, 2013

Providence teacher absent for 10 years

Update: This story provides answers to many of the questions raised here.
Why would someone who hasn't set foot in Providence High for a decade be listed as a teacher there, earning more than $69,000 a year?

The question struck me as one of those  "too strange to be true"  rumors.  But this is the reason I check them out:  In this case, CMS confirms that a math teacher who's still listed on the Providence High web site and the 2013 CMS payroll has been on worker's comp leave since an injury that happened in 2003.

This raises a host of follow-up questions:  Why isn't this teacher on long-term disability or,  given that he's 71 years old,  retired?  How common is it for schools to have teachers on leave for years?  How many inactive teachers held onto jobs during the years when CMS was laying off active teachers by the hundreds?

CMS isn't answering. Neither is the state Department of Public Instruction.

This whole thing began when reporter Elisabeth Arriero went to Providence for another story last fall.  Faculty members asked if she knew the story behind the missing teacher, and she relayed the question to me. (We obviously have his name,  but I'm not using it to protect his privacy.)

After finding the name she gave me on the Providence online faculty listing and the 2012 payroll,
 I called a source at the school,  who confirmed that he has been gone for years.  His continuing presence on the roster is apparently a puzzle to the rank-and-file faculty.

I asked LaTarzja Henry, who was then head of communications, to check on his status. She reported back on the worker's comp leave from 2003.

I've heard of schools having to fill a gap for weeks, even months, when a teacher is seriously ill,  injured,  recovering from surgery or on maternity leave.  But I was flabbergasted to realize someone could be on leave for a decade. I followed up with questions about the broader context, including whether there's any time limit and how such extended leaves affect hiring and layoffs. I also requested a list of employees who have been on leave for more than a year.

Henry told me she had erred in releasing any information about the teacher's status because such actions are confidential.  And she said it wouldn't be possible to tally people on extended leave without searching individual files.

I emailed DPI spokeswoman Vanessa Jeter,  asking her to steer me to someone in the state who could either shed light on this situation or explain the concept of extended leaves. She referred me to CMS attorney George Battle. "Our people did not feel comfortable commenting on this issue,"  she replied.  "Generally,  leave issues are local board/central office issues.  I am not sure we would have any trend information, etc., to share."

By then, I was busy with other stories,  and frustrated that I wasn't getting enough information to give this any context.  I let it slide  --  but got curious again when we posted the 2013 payroll.   There's the absent math teacher,  making $69,369 a year.

There's been a lot of turnover at the top in CMS over the last few months, so I tried again,  emailing Battle, new Communications Chief Kathryn Block, new HR Chief Kelly Gwaltney and Providence Principal Tracey Harrill,  asking if anyone would explain this teacher's situation and tell me whether there are other teachers on similar extended leaves.

"Any payments received by (the teacher) have been and are being made in accordance with North Carolina law,"  Block replied.  "CMS strictly follows all state laws concerning employee compensation, retirement benefits and confidentiality of personnel records.  We cannot legally disclose any additional information about (the teacher’s) compensation without his written permission.  Please understand our need to honor the confidentiality of this situation."

I called the teacher at home,  and he said someone from CMS had told him I might ask him about this.  "I'm not at liberty to talk,"  he said.  "The school called and said I shouldn't make any comments."

State Rep. Bill Brawley,  a Matthews Republican,  read this post and says he has a pretty good idea what's going on.  Temporary total disability,  a worker's comp category that indicates an employee is totally disabled but might be able to return to work in the future,  has created a number of situations like this,  he said.

"We had cases of prison guards who had been on total temporary disability for 17 years and the prisons had to pay overtime to cover for them,"  Brawley said.

In 2011,  the legislature capped the length of time that disabled workers could collect under this category.  But Brawley said the cap only applies to people disabled after the revision.

I won't be able to sort out all the questions related to this right away.  I've been looking up workers comp and finding contradictory information;  apparently there's a reason HR people and lawyers get paid to wade through these regulations.  But the case of the absent teacher raises a question for taxpayers and employees:  Is this system working the way it should for all involved?

102 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is not an aberration. We have a teacher at Highland Mill who hasn't worked in three years yet she is still in the database and we cannot hire a teacher in her position. Please keep digging into this. Small schools like Highland Mill cannot effectively cover for a lame teacher like this.

Anonymous said...

Look at Coulwood and their athletic director, or the one they used to have. Teacher salary..but never taught!

Anonymous said...

I am really disappointed hi how soft-toothed Ann is about this. Someone is clearly taking advantage of the system still collecting a check at 71. There is no incentive to retire when you get full pay for not working. In theory -- collecting 100 years of service time while effectively retired is at least worth mentioning a name. Maybe someone in the community would come forward if they knew WHO they were talking about.

BolynMcClung said...

.
THE MAN WHO NEVER RETURNED….it ain't just a song
.

For all those Bostonians who now live in Charlotte there is no mystery about the missing teacher.

Everyone knows he is the famous "Charlie" from the MTA. He's still getting the free ride made famous by the Kingston Trio….just changed cities.
.
.
Did he ever return?
No he never returned
And his fate is still unlearn'd
He may ride forever
'neath the streets of Charlotte
He's the man who never returned.

….NOW EVERYONE SING THE CMS VERSION..
.
.
Did he ever return to CMS?
No he never returned
And his students are still unlearn'd
He may ride forever
'neath the streets of Charlotte
He's the man who never returned
.
.


Bolyn McClung
Pineville
.

Anonymous said...

A decade ago our school had a teacher who was on an eight month long family illness leave. Her father was very ill. The reality was she and a partner were starting a business in another state. The personnel clause is the oldest CMS/DPI obfuscation in the book. Maybe the Raleigh News/Observer investigative team can take this one and run with it for the entire state

Wiley Coyote said...

Gasp!....Oh, the horror!

The USDA refuses to allow school districts to fully audit the school lunch program which contains thousands who do not qualify but get benefits anyway.

So far, there have been several examples in this article of teachers getting full pay instead of disability. I'm betting this is just the tip of the iceberg.....


STOP CMS BONDS IN NOVEMBER! VOTE NO!

Anonymous said...

I'm happy that the Providence HS teachers brought the problem to your attention. Kudos to them.

Anonymous said...

So tell us again why it is so important and wonderful to be a very large school system! I'll bet this kind of thing wouldn't have lasted long in a truly local school system.

cmsparent2010 said...

Wonder what he tells the IRS on his tax forms?

Anonymous said...

This is not at all unusual. We have had two teachers at my school who decided they were "too anxious" to return to school. One was afraid of the principal and another was afraid of the students. One huge issue is that doctors will sign off on this kind of behavior and CMS is afraid they will be sued if they don't accept it. They are correct there; they would be! Most of these teachers are poor and just want to avoid an Action Plan to have them dismissed.

Anonymous said...

9:47...Probably exactly what he is required to by law. Do you still beat your wife? Not a fair question? Neither was yours.

8:27...size of the school system is irrelevant. NC is still NC law.

Should he still be on at age 71? Probably not, but if it is legal, deal with it. If it is legitimate, DEAL WITH IT. If not, I'm sure our NC legislature will come up with a way to screw the thousands who need long term disability out of what they are due according to the law. They won't simply write a change to the law that states disability up to retirement age or something sensible. No, in their quest to fulfill their campaign promises of less government and more jobs, they will totally swing the pendulum against the working man/woman.

Brilliant.

Anonymous said...

It took me 30 seconds to find this NC Public Schools leave policy:

http://www.ncpublicschools.org/docs/humanresources/district-personnel/faq/2011fmla-qa.pdf

I found this interesting:

Q: Does the law guarantee paid time off?
Generally, FMLA is unpaid leave. However, the law permits an employee to elect, or the
employer to require the employee, to use accrued paid leave, such as vacation or sick leave, for
some or all of the FMLA leave period. When paid leave is substituted for unpaid FMLA leave, it
may be counted against the 12-week FMLA leave entitlement if the employee is properly
notified of the designation when the leave begins.

So either I'm missing something, or this teacher had some serious vacation and sick leave built up -- 10 years worth? LOL

Wait until Obamacare kicks in -- this example would be but a pinprick of the fraud, waste and incompetency we'll all be living under when this Socialist "health care" system starts to destroy our economy and health. Anybody see their premiums going down yet? I thought so. More government lies.

Bravo for the Kingston Trio reference! When music was still music.

Ann Doss Helms said...

Folks, I'm filtering comments because, as expected, a lot of you know or have figured out who this is, and some folks want to post speculation about the circumstances surrounding his departure. Our research librarian checked public records and found nothing pertaining to this.

Bottom line: This isn't some guy who flew under the CMS radar and gamed the system. This apparently IS the system, and it's probably not unique to CMS. As I hoped, we're getting some ideas about which threads to pull to learn more, but good systemic answers may not come quickly.

Anonymous said...

I don't teach in North Carolina, but in my state, this is unheard of. A teacher who is on extended leave for any reason is iallowed to remain on a specific school's faculty roster for a period of one year. After that, they may remain as an unassigned employee and their position is filled. Additionally, an employee can be paid only until the teacher has exhausted his/her sick leave.

Anonymous said...

Wonder which party was in control of the legislature when rules and regulations for teacher pay were set up?

Anonymous said...

And why is Tricia Cotham still taking up an asst principal posiyion at East Meck HS?

Ann Doss Helms said...

Cotham has been on unpaid leave since she was appointed (then elected) to the state legislature. The arrangement allows her to return to her job at no penalty. But it's a good question, and the same one that applies to any extended leave: Do these people hold a position that can't be filled by an active employee? Or are they on paper only?

William said...

@Anonymous 10:15. This isn't FLMA leave, so your post is irrelevant.

Anonymous said...

Please do not use this story as another " let's get those bad greedy overpaid teachers" story. It is just not deserved. This story is not the norm - it is an aberration. I know teachers who come to work sick all the time. They are in those classrooms when they should be home taking care of sick family members. They are dedicated and often underpaid. One person milking system is not a reason for a witch hunt.

Anonymous said...

The misunderstanding here is that most are thinking this teacher is just taking a 10 vacation, when he is on temp. total disability. Temp. total disability is when the worker is currently completely unable to do their job, but MAY in the future become fit enough to return to work. This isn't something that the teacher thought up on his own, he has a folder probably about a foot thick from different doctors for treatments, therapy's, etc and all if it is confirming the diagnosis. CMS, pretty much has three options-1. they can "find" a job in the school that the teacher could do within the limitations of the drs. limits, pay him and hourly wage and then offset the difference of their usual wage from workers comp. or 2. they can do exactly what they are doing, or 3. they can do a one lump sum payout. None are ideal for CMS, but with the laws on the books this is what they can do.

Anonymous said...

11:26 Is there not a retirement age that eventually clicks in on this system?

Anonymous said...

What type of accident, injury or occupational disease can/did a math teach incur ON-THE-JOB that provides him full pay for 10 years and keeps him from teaching math?

Wiley Coyote said...

On a lighter note...

I just received a CMS Task Force Survey and sent it back with comments.

Had to shake my head at some of the questions.

Anonymous said...

Temporary Total Disability should be 2/3 of the paycheck. Something still is not right here.

Ann Doss Helms said...

11:43, I wondered about that. I think it's possible the actual amount he's receiving is not the full amount listed on payroll (as in Cotham, who's actually getting nothing). That seems like the kind of thing it would behoove CMS to explain, but I think they're worried about violating confidentiality.

Anonymous said...

Anon @11:26. You do not have any more facts than anyone else has posted here. Rep Brawley did not say that this was a case of Temporary Total Disability...only that TTD has created situations like this one.

Anonymous said...

I guess we're all googling "temporary total disability in NC". I have the same questions--if the requirement for temporary total disability is that you're disabled on the job, what on earth happened to him at Providence when he was 61 that caused 10 years of disability yet there is hope he will eventually be able to come back? And I also read the 2/3 salary requirement--so what kind of salary was he making in 2003? And thirdly once again--shouldn't he be well passed retirement age by now? Or do the payments go on forever?

Anonymous said...

outside of the public sector and possibly some private sector union jobs I can't imagine a for profit private company permitting this. Short Term Disability might cover 6 to 12 weeks and the person would move to Long Term Disability coverage at some value less than full pay.

I can't seem to find a mandatory retirement age, so likely this 'gentleman' is milking the system for as long as he can.

Anonymous said...

This former Providence family is just glad you are finally and specifically investigating some issues with that school - the administration has been incompetent in so many areas, and now it is coming to pass that records that seem questionable are overlooked or dismissed for the sake of making things look good. Keep digging, the payroll is just the beginning.

Anonymous said...

12:06--It sounds like this is a CMS HR issue--don't imagine administration at the school handles this. Also, it's been pointed out that this all seems to be in accordance with state regulations--watch where you're placing the blame!

Anonymous said...

This is very typical CMS. All schools have these ghosts on their rosters. Almost every HR person refuses to "Get involved" for fear of a law suit. But what about the kids and their "quality" education while CMS tip toes through a gutless effort!

Jeff said...

That's almost $700,000 (excluding benefits) for which CMS, the students, and the citizens have received nothing in return. Maybe CMS needs to review and update this and many other policies.

Anonymous said...

To Anon 11:18
I agree with you!
Instead of dragging this on and on and on....
How about noticing the LOW LOW pay of newer teachers?
I feel angry when I look at any of the schools ranked salary list. Please look beyond the top guys and their higher pay, and go to the pages of lower salaried teachers who are worker as HARD if not HARDER!

Anonymous said...

I'm a NC workers' compensation adjuster. The problem here is the State Laws are designed to discourage employees from returning to work after an injury. Claimant Attorneys fight tooth and nail to keep their clients from returning to work because it means a bigger payday for the attorney. I also handle TN claims and I rarely see someone not return to work because the financial incentive to leave employment is not nearly as great as it is in NC. NC requires a judge to step in and allow the insurance carrier to cut off benefits.

Anonymous said...

Ann- I wonder if you can find out how many employees are being paid for nothing because CMS "couldn't find a place" for them. I know of at least one.

Anonymous said...

Ann, You need to continue to pursue this story. You should write an article about it and not just a blog post. This story is a lot more interesting and relevant for most people than something like Heath Morrison's 22 task forces or project lift.

Anonymous said...

Honesty guides good people; dishonesty destroys treacherous people. Proverbs 11:3 New Living Translation (©2007)
Just how dishonest can one be?
Come on CMS..stop trying to justify every crooked thing you do.

Anonymous said...

I wonder how many employees are being paid to do nothing because CMS "can't find a place" for them. I know of one. She's just as happy as can be, of course.

Ann Doss Helms said...

1:31/1:34, can you elaborate on what you mean by doing nothing because CMS can't find a place? Are they literally at home being paid, or put into some kind of makeshift assignment? If you can email me details on the individual, maybe I can find out more.

1:32, I agree, but a full story isn't going to happen quickly. As noted before, this is giving me some insights into the bigger picture.

Anonymous said...

Ann, the salary quoted here makes this guy the 6th highest paid teacher at Providence High (and he hasn't taught in 10 years) and puts him in the top 3% of income in all of CMS. Please keep digging.

Anonymous said...

It just gets worse. I've never known any organization to be run as unprofessionally as CMS. If it were a business it would have closed years ago.
Administrators cannot do anything to improve the status quo because their mistakes would be exposed. Principals have their heads stuck in computer screens burying their problems and have no relationship with students. Morrison adopts outdated concepts like task forces so as to pass any blame onto them.
The board is unsophisticated with absolutely no business experience yet is in charge of an enormous budget.
CMS expects students to be docile and prefers to blame parents for just about everything.
"Downtown" cannot think and relies on incorrect information in "the system" which, apparently, can never be corrected.
This article is just one example of the gross incompetence that CMS does not want to admit or address.

Wiley Coyote said...

Seems like we need another Deep Throat.

Who will step up?

Tina Roggenkamp said...

Thank you for bringing this to light. I bet someone could make a full-time job exposing the waste in CMS.

Anonymous said...

As Providence has one of the highest student to teacher ratios, I am interested to know if this teacher is included in PHS' allotment of teachers. If counted in the allotment, PHS' ratio is actually higher.

Anonymous said...

On Facebook, this person admits to being a retired math teacher. So, why then is he still collecting a salary and listed as a full time teacher at Providence High?

Anonymous said...

Sounds like Latarza already violated his confidentiality. Litigation, here we come!!

Jeff said...

Who can we, the taxpayers, contact within the school system to have them look into this particular case?

Tina Roggenkamp said...


When was the last time CMS had an actual and thorough audit?

Wiley Coyote said...

CMS Website:

Supplemental Retirement Plans

Short-Term and Long-Term Disability

http://www.cms.k12.nc.us/Jobs/benefits/VoluntaryBenefits/SupplementalRetirementPlans/Pages/Short-TermandLong-TermDisability.aspx

Reporting fraud from the NCDPI website:

REPORT FRAUD

http://www.ncpublicschools.org/internalaudit/fraud/

Anonymous said...

Tina, her name is Judy. Or Christine. Or Wiley. Take your pick...lots of people try to alert to the waste within CMS.

But what we get is former superintendents crying poor, then "finding" $2 million to write crappy new tests.

Anonymous said...

I think it's a shame that people are using this to bash a school for something it has no control over. The fact of the matter is this...STATE LAW. CMS is abiding by the law. There isn't some hush, hush cover up. This is also not the first time the CO wrote about this teacher and this issue. People wanting to point a finger at Providence, especially the self-sainted "former Providence family" crying "foul, foul" against the school and its administration and how this is the "tip" of some devilish iceberg are way out of line and they should most likely pay attention to the three fingers pointing back at themselves. Now, as a teacher myself, if this person is taking up an allotment spot at a school that already has one of the highest student/teacher ratios in the region...that is cause for concern. It is already insulting enough that there is an expectation that Providence should limp along still over 30 staff members down from pre-Gorman layoffs JUST because it is a school in "South" Charlotte and has a higher socio-economic composition than some other schools in the county. Equity is only equity in certain parts of the county I suppose. But that is a conversation for another time...at the end of the day CMS and PHS are following state laws...there is no Machiavellian plot here...much to, it seems, the eternal disappointment of those who always want to point out what people are doing wrong.

Wiley Coyote said...

3:56

Just don't call me Shirley.

Ann Doss Helms said...

4 p.m., when has the Observer written about this? I've checked our archives twice and found nothing. Plus I've covered this beat since 2002 and it's not ringing any bells for prior coverage.

Tina Roggenkamp said...

3:56 - sounds about right. When EveryBlock was still around, there were numerous requests from teachers for everything from iPads, chairs, tables, to I think it was paying people to come in and teach students how to read. I've also heard of students not being able to bring textbooks home because there are so few that several classes are sharing one set. But there is seemingly endless funds for increasing numbers of tests.

4:00 - something smells fishy. It doesn't seem legal for a "retired" teacher to keep collecting a salary for 10 years. I can see getting disability for a reasonable length of time.

I also highly doubt that this is an isolated incident. It may not be the tip of any iceberg, but if a former Providence parent is hinting at other things, it's entirely possible that there are more "inconsistencies". And fudging the stats? I've never seen that done (I'm being completely sarcastic there.)

Missouri said...

And a lot of you bad mouth those that bad mouth the current state of public schools.

Anonymous said...

Tina: I've got to be honest, I've never seen an option on Facebook that says "Collecting Disability from ________________". I'm sure the person in question, whomever he is, didn't really put that much thought into his Facebook accurately reflecting his true work status. Maybe I'm wrong here and FB is the official resume system now. I've seen middle schoolers say they are already students at the high school where they will be attending, does that mean we should count them against the graduation statistics because they are "out of cohort"? No. Luckily, there is a real world beyond FB. The article clearly says the person is not retired so are you taking the State of NC's word or that of FB? CMS is following what are disability protocols. It doesn't matter whether you agree with it or not as it is the law. If you're smelling something fishy, you may wanna check to be sure your trash has been taken out.

Willim said...

Don't forget that Mr. Math teacher is ALSO collecting social security checks on top of his CMS checks. Needless to say, he is living well and probably sleeping like a baby.

Craig said...

CMS sucks. You honestly think they care about any of this or your kids? It's just more bureaucracy.

Anonymous said...

I think this is just one more example of why we the people cannot continue to give CMS more money until they do a thorough job of getting rid of the excessive waste.
Teachers: you are being used by the administrators. They continue to get all their perks and they shortchange you in order to "justify" getting more money. CMS has plenty of money, it is how they are choosing to spend it which is the problem.

Anonymous said...

I think this is just one more example of why we the people cannot continue to give CMS more money until they do a thorough job of getting rid of the excessive waste.
Teachers: you are being used by the administrators. They continue to get all their perks and they shortchange you in order to "justify" getting more money. CMS has plenty of money, it is how they are choosing to spend it which is the problem.

Anonymous said...

So much CMS waste.

CharlotteObserver said...

Exactly when did common sense die in this country?

Anonymous said...

It died in the 1960's.

Anonymous said...

I know a few principals making over $100,000 that have been absent at the job for several years

Anonymous said...

Some would argue that teachers have it so hard. Little pay and lots of unappreciated work, the conventional wisdom goes.

The reality doesn't always fit this tidy narrative. Many teachers are making $60 or $70 k with lots of days off, early retirement, a nice pension and generous insurance coverage. Oh, and it's almost impossible to be fired no matter how much your students learn or don't learn.

But who knew you could work for 10 years for doing nothing?

Ann, when the Providence teacher dies, can he pass his salary on to his heirs so that they have income for life too?

Anonymous said...

You need to keep digging!!!!! We have a staff member who is on the payroll and listed on our school website. I have never meet at the school I am at!!! I have been working for CMS for 10 years and have never seen this person walk through the door!!! It's a shame that this continues to happen! These people are sitting pretty. When the ones that do work struggle with the pay we do get!!!

Anonymous said...

I represent the teacher in question. He is drawing workers' comp disability payments because he is disabled, but it is my understanding that he is NOT drawing his teacher's salary. If he was still drawing his salary, then the law is very clear that he would not be getting the workers' comp payments. I have represented many teachers and they do not draw both TTD and salary at the same time. The facts in this blog post, and Mr. Brawley's assertions, are incorrect and misleading.

Ann Doss Helms said...

6:58, if you really represent this teacher please do more than post an anonymous comment. Contact me in person to explain how this works (I'm at home now but reachable at 704-358-5033 tomorrow morning), and/or get the teacher to give CMS permission to explain how much he's being paid and from what source. You can surely see why the info that's available raises questions.

Wiley Coyote said...

6:58

I represent the Road Runner but have never posted that fact until now to make a point.

Wiley Coyote
ACME Insurance Company

jill said...

I have heard a lot of comments about the "smoke and mirrors" at Providence High. If anyone is curious, just look into their grading system. Providence High is not all it's cracked up to be. So to speak.

Anonymous said...

So many have asked for people to step up to reveal the inside truths in CMS. When folks try to work with the system, they are bullied by the present administration that has no intention of improving any of the classroom situations NOR does he know how. He is all fluff, task force and threatens and bullies his staff. Why the BOE continues to support him baffles me...OH wait, the BOE is bullied too....they are simply blindly playing games on the public dimes and dollars. The public needs to elect ALL NEW BOE members and hold them accounable. That will be the day...they would rather sit at home and complain while the school system is run by less than competent folks paid way too much.

Anonymous said...

This is simpole...it's a no show job like the mafia does with union contracts!

Anonymous said...

We obviously have his name, but I'm not using it to protect his privacy.)

nah - you just gave me gender, salary, teaching position and high school - I bet I can narrow it down to 2 or 3. SMH and we wonder why the press receives such low approval ratings.

Anonymous said...

This is crazy stupid! A time limit should be set or age limit. At least a retirement age. I bet the 71 yr old would be retired by now if he was not still receiving checks. He is too smart to stop them. The school should stop paying and let disability and SS check be the only checks going to him.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Anon: @ April 29, 2013 at 8:41 PM: If you can only only 'narrow it down to 2 or 3', there must be something wrong with your deductive reasoning. Everything you needed, and then some, was provided to figure out who it is.

Anonymous said...

The odd thing is that NOT ONE person came forward with any type of real world suggestion to remedy the situation. The situation is as it is because there was not, and still is not, a system in place to deal with long-term disabilities related to workmen's comp on the part of the school districts or the state. Why don't you pull on your big boy and girl pants and come up with a solution instead of spewing your negative venom all over the place, an action that accomplishes NOTHING.

Anonymous said...

Tricia Cotham is listed as an AP at East. I've been there for 8 years and have never seen her!!! She's on the NC House of Representative!!! Can't hire another AP because of her title.

Anonymous said...

Ms. Helms,

I am a teacher, but don't know who this person is or the situation as I was not at the school at the time in question. What I do know is this: It is incredibly disheartening that this blog post has created a situation where people put forth misinformation, untruths, and downright meanness. I work with a lot of people who are exceptional teachers, who care about the students, who work long hours, who spend their summers at workshops and classes or at other jobs, who sacrifice their own time on weekends and after school to provide opportunities for students as athletes, musicians, artists, speakers, debaters, scientists, etc., and who work with supportive administrative and support staff teams. It always fascinates me how much people in the general public imagine they know about a school or assume things about people who work in schools. Two persons above clearly didn't get "their way" in some situation and want some broad scale investigation into what? The grading scale? I hate to break it to everyone, but the grading scale is consistent across NC and the BOE sets other parameters. If a person doesn't like it, he/she should take that up with the BOE and NCDPI, but it is certainly not the teachers at PHS' decision. To the person who assumes that teachers are rolling in the dough at $60K or $70K a year, etc. with all these perks, you are mistaken. Due to the "freeze", I have friends who have been teaching for five years now and are pretty much making the same money as the first day they ever stepped on campus (barely over $30K). Teachers, like any other person in any other job, pay in and save for retirement and those of us who are younger know that it is patently unlikely any sort of pension system will still be in place when we retire in 25-30 years. Teachers buy lots of supplies out of their own pockets and take home hours of work. How many of your spend hundreds of dollars to buy your own supplies, materials, etc. and when you leave for the day take home 2-3 more hours of work and then continue your work on weekends? There are trade offs in every profession. I'm not complaining, I knew the bargain I struck when I decided to become a teacher. Though the thing that bothers me truly is the number of people who think they know how to do my job better than me or know more about what it is to be a teacher and they've never stepped foot in a classroom. I certainly don't call up parents who may work at Bank of America and tell them how to run the banking industry or blame them personally for the economic fracas and then advise them on how to do banking better, thus the constant amazement of how many people get on these boards and think they know all there is to know about teaching.

I just don't understand, Ms. Helms, why you feel it is OK to provide a forum for people bash schools in our community on a consistent basis. This particular forum says "comment moderation has been enabled" and yet people are taking pot shots at principals and teachers. It is certainly not productive. Good luck!

Mark Caplan said...

"In 2011, the legislature capped the length of time that disabled workers could collect under this category [Temporary Total Disability]."

And that capped length of time is how long?

Anonymous said...

like it or not, something smells rotten here and I appreciate Ann digging into this and putting a bit of heat on CMS.

Of course there are great teachers and administrators within CMS. That's not what the issue is here. Keep it up Ann!

Anonymous said...

to Anon @ 6:00 AM

You are a perfect example of why people are fed up with public 'servants'.

What you fail to comprehend is that this individual has been collecting 'temporary disability' for the past 10 years - yes, that is 'temporary'. As an educator I am sure you can understand the meaning of the word 'temporary'.

You make odd comparisons to private sector jobs, failing to realize that no private sector company has a policy that permits a worker to collect full salary and benefits for 10 years on 'temporary' disability.

Furthermore, how in the world do you justify this individual collecting 'temporary' disability at full pay for this length of time when there are budget issues that need to be addressed?

Your comments are exactly the problem as to why the people who pay your salary are fed up with the school district's constant demand for 'more money'. The money given by the tax payers is being squandered and wasted.

Anonymous said...

Mark Caplan April 30, 2013 at 6:15 AM said...And that capped length of time is how long?
_______________________

"....benefits up to a maximum of
500 weeks from the first date of disability"

Anonymous said...

Anon: April 30, 2013 at 5:20 AM--Where are your 'big boy pants' and helpful suggestions? Or are you just spreading 'venom'?
________
Here's a couple of helpful suggestions.
1. As the Workers' Comp Claim adjuster on this forum stated said, "The problem here is the State Laws are designed to discourage employees from returning to work after an injury. Claimant Attorneys fight tooth and nail to keep their clients from returning to work because it means a bigger payday for the attorney. I also handle TN claims and I rarely see someone not return to work because the financial incentive to leave employment is not nearly as great as it is in NC." Work with your representative to have the law changed in NC to make it less attractive to skip working.

2. Report suspected fraud. And then have someone in authority investigate it with vigor. Somehow this 'man' has been able to supposedly collect his full salary for doing no work. Somehow he has supposedly incurred an injury while on the job that makes him unable to teach math.

3. Have a mandatory retirement age that someone must move from workers comp to retirement level pay. Someone should not be getting workers comp pay at age 71 when he has not worked for 10 years.

Anonymous said...

6:48: "Oh, and it's almost impossible to be fired no matter how much your students learn or don't learn."

This is one of the biggest myths currently circulating about the state of education in NC. Teachers certainly can be let go, and in many cases, it doesn't even take much documentation or paperwork. North Carolina is, after all, a "right to work" state, and teachers are not unionized. Please stop perpetuating the myth that teachers enjoy job security that other professionals don't.

Anonymous said...

At ANON 04/30 8:38: I didn't fail to comprehend, I actually comprehended better than most as I read all of the information and the note from the teacher's lawyer that states the teacher isn't collecting at full salary. I don't have to justify anything because it is the State Law and if a person disagrees with the law, which given a previous poster already indicated had been changed in 2011, I don't know what to do beyond that as you are within your rights to disagree. You can be mad about paying my salary all you want to, I am consistently one of the best at what I do and I certainly don't need the "private" sector to validate that. I also cannot control what the school district asks for as I am a lowly...how did you phrase it..."servant".

Anonymous said...

In reference to the person that represents Mr. Math, what IS the situation? Why then is he listed as drawing a salary if he is not. Wouldn't this be in a Workman's Comp database or an insurance datebase?

We have the same siuation in our elementary school. The person listed as part of our staff has not step foot in this school for 15years. Why are they listed on CMS pay database, in the school roaster and CMS main directory with a CMS e-mail address for 15 years!! Better yet, this person keeps getting raises in the data base!

Please please Ann get us more information!!!

Anonymous said...

Anon 8:38

Your comments are so full of vitriol it's difficult to see your point. The poster to whom you refer was stating how frustrated teachers feel as the result of being vilified; they are constantly defending themselves against false "claims" and misinformation. I don't see why this makes the poster the "perfect example" of why people are fed up with wasteful spending at schools.

Ann Doss Helms said...

The person representing the teacher is legit and is trying to get clearance to provide an explanation (and, I hope, clear CMS to offer some answers as well). I'll file a story if/when we get that.

9:46, can you provide me specifics on the person who's been missing for 15 years?

Ann Doss Helms said...

Mark Kaplan, that's a great question and one I couldn't answer with confidence. Rep. Brawley said five years but check the details. Searching the General Assembly site, I found bills saying 300 weeks and 500 weeks. I haven't been able to get a live person yet to give an authoritative answer.

If 8:39 is right and it's 500 weeks, that's almost 10 years.

Anonymous said...

Regarding 500 week limit on Temporary Total Disability.

http://www.ic.nc.gov/ncic/pages/statute/97-29.htm

"....the employee qualifies for temporary total disability subject to the limitations noted herein. The employee shall not be entitled to compensation pursuant to this subsection greater than 500 weeks from the date of first disability unless the employee qualifies for extended compensation under subsection (c) of this section."

Anonymous said...

As for other "professionals" working long hours, don't be so silly.

I worked in IT for more than 20 years (no pension, either) and had to do a lot of work on my own just to keep up with the technology.

And if you want to talk about long hours...

Well, I can remember a few times I couldn't put all my hours for the week on the timesheet because they were limited to 2 digits.

For the mathematically impaired, that means I worked 100+ hours for that "week"...

And yes, that is possible if you don't get much sleep and practically live in the office or computer center.

Ask a medical intern, they do the same on a much more regular basis.

And some young lawyers do, too.

Anonymous said...

The idea that teachers are overworked compared to other professions is ridiculous and doesn't hold up to rational analysis. As for comparing pay scales, those are apples to orange comparisons.

While an argument can be made that what teachers do is valuable and 'should' be worth more to society, the problem is that the taxpayers (and the elected leadership) doesn't feel that way.

Now as a teacher you can complain that you spent a great deal of money to get a teaching degree and certification - I can acknowledge that - but then the question is - if you know that teaching is a low paying profession, why did you willingly spend a lot of money for a low paying job? That is a poor return on investment.

If you felt 'called' to teach, then you have no business complaining about low pay. It's part of the calling.

At the end of the day, perhaps a better question is "Why does it cost so much to get a teaching degree and certification - is the process perhaps broken and could it be streamlined and made more efficient and less costly?"

The cost of a teaching degree today can easily reach 4x the average annual compensation for an entry level teacher. Thirty years ago the cost of a teaching degree and certification was roughly equal to 1x the annual entry level salary.

Perhaps it is not the teacher salaries that are the issue, perhaps it is the cost of teacher education. I would be supportive of dedicated 'teacher colleges' designed to produce qualified teachers at reasonable cost, and then providing free teaching degrees to qualified applicants provided they committed to a 10 year teaching contract.

Anonymous said...

I own a business and don't make that much money. I have no job security, pay for my own benefits and some weeks I don't get a paycheck. Oh, and I work 24/7 and never get a break from it. Teaching sounds like a vacation to me.

Anonymous said...

The argument that a "calling" into public service means that you should be willing to live on substantially less money is facetious, at best. Since when is it OK to underpay someone just because he or she "chose" the job? Other countries far outrank us in terms of student achievement. One of the big differences? Teaching is respected and it pays well in many other countries, therefore talented college graduates actively seek out the profession. The salary and compensation attracts the best, and it is a competitive field. It makes no sense to undervalue it, burn out the people trying to make a difference, see a high turnover rate among teachers, expect them to correct every societal ill, and then wonder why our students aren't performing as they should.

It is not an "apples to oranges" comparison to wonder why other professions pay well and teaching does not. Why is it not valid to wonder why teachers are not compensated on the levels as other professionals with academic degrees and specialized knowledge?

Anonymous said...

CMS gets plenty of money. It is how they are spending it that is the crime. Some admin reductions are way overdue.

Anonymous said...

@Anon May 1st 11:51 AM

Many teachers have expressed an opinion that they view teaching as a 'calling' - irregardless, it is well known that teaching is a relatively low paying position.

Therefore - if you know beforehand teaching is a low paying position, and you go to college and make a significant financial investment in becoming a teacher - for a LOW paying position, then really why complain? No one holds a gun to someone's head and says "You will be a teacher" - it is a choice. So if you make a conscious decision to become a teacher, and that decision requires you to spend upward of 75 to 100k to achieve the necessary education and certification and you know the entry level salary is 30k per year - that is your decision.
...and btw, making the argument that you didn't 'know' it was going to that low paying...well, shame on you for not researching your chosen career.

That being said, comparing a teaching position to a network engineer, CPA, doctor is an apples to oranges comparison. They are different professions, with different skill sets, and are valued differently in the marketplace - and by society.

There is perhaps a moral argument to be made about what kind of a civil society we have where we value professional sports and entertainment icons over teachers, police and firefighters but that is an entirely different conversation.

As noted in my original post, the pay scales for teachers is a well know fact, people entering the profession are aware of that fact - that is a choice. Making a choice and then complaining about it seems a bit counter-intuitive. If as a teacher you find your skills and contributions to be undervalues, move into a different profession.

If you are going to tell me that your skills and knowledge doesn't transfer to other work, then again it would suggest that the marketplace as determined your value appropriately.

We live in a society that provides you choices, how you manage those choices is up to you.

Ranking student achievement and comparing them across countries is not a simple matter - some studies show the US as behind - but then again in some countries there is more of an emphasis on rote learning - for example in certain countries, the suicide rate of students is very high, compared to the US, due to the pressure to achieve on certain tests which determine if you get into the 'right' university or college...is that what you call achievement?

Society has valued teachers at 'X' - you can argue it should be more and perhaps it should be, or perhaps the cost to enter the profession should be less.

Anonymous said...

It seems some comments have gone down a different track. We are not talking about how hard teachers work or their pay. The subject of this blog is a teacher absent for 10 years appears to be receiving a paycheck, possibly disablity, perhaps retirement Social Security and State Pension. We don't know....Let's keep this on track and find the truth.......This seems to be going on in other schools as well.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps, then, that's the crux of the argument: the fact that our society has so devalued education that it is low-paying profession (in some parts of the country) is a travesty. A solid education is a cornerstone for almost everything that transpires in a person's adult life. I have never heard anyone say, "I'm a teacher, and it's not fair, I didn't know what the pay scale was." I have heard people say, "I should make more. This job should be valued more." There is a big difference, and there is nothing wrong with believing that your job is worth more than you are currently being paid, and then being a vocal proponent to make that change happen.

Ann Doss Helms said...

I'm working on an article that will clarify a lot of these questions; should be ready soon.

Anonymous said...

Ann's article explaining this is a good one.

But it doesn't explain why six years after she was first appointed to fill the remainder of Jim Black's term, CMS feels obligated to keep Rep. Cotham "on leave," as if she were planning to return.

It seems ethically questionable, since the "temporary" part of the situation has passed.

Anonymous said...

Well way to go. Stir up all of these posters with partial info (at best) then conclude with the responsible article that should have been written in the first place. Spectacular journalism.