Teacher's Pet Peeve

To the Editor,

I would like to commend Jim Nintzel on his accurate reporting on the raise issued to the superintendent of Amphitheater ("Raising Trouble," Tucson Weekly, December 18 ). This is, by far, the most complete and accurate description of the total package that is awarded to the superintendent.

Mailbag I can remember a time last year when I was the only one asking questions about the unethical nature of the contract awarded to the superintendent of Amphitheater. At that time. it contained a "bonus clause" giving him access to surpluses in the budget (any budget) for personal use if the AMPHI Board so wished. This clause was in place during the tenure of Vicki Cox-Golder and Michael Bernal as Board presidents. Believing that public schools were not designed to be for profit, I took a position that, if even one dollar was left over, the children should come first.

I did not criticize the superintendent. It never was an issue who was the superintendent. I only brought an unethical feature of his contract into the light of day. But I received an anonymous threatening race-hate letter in the mail asking me to leave the superintendent and his contract alone. Some people in the community will unfortunately remember this. It was a lesson in "shooting the messenger." No pun intended. (I know some will consider this a further attack on the superintendent but to question does not always mean to be against.)

Oddly, President Bernal, responded by holding a press conference to defend the superintendent. At that moment, I believed that there would never be justice brought against the letter writer or that the contract would ever be changed. I was half right. The Amphi School District and the Tucson police refused to investigate this matter, for whatever reason. But I was able to see the day when a wrong was corrected--the removal of some of the unethical features.

There has, indeed, been much confusion over the raise received by the superintendent of Amphitheater. Some reports have it at $8,000 and some say $5,000. The only true factor that we can rely on, by actually reading the contract, is that the base pay was $87,000 for the 1996-'97 school year. The base pay is now $94,175 a year. That amounts to $7,175 or an 8.25% raise.

I am probably one of the leading experts on this contract for obvious reasons. That is why I chuckle when others, even the media, compare it favorably to other superintendents. It is true that the base is comparable to other superintendent's contracts, but others do not receive $8,200 in "expense account" money, about $8,000 paid vacation use and $6,400 in "automobile allowance." How do I know this? I am also one of the few who have actually taken the time to read his contract. I have also taken the time to read others.

I would like to clarify what I observed at the midnight Board meeting since I was one of the few to stay until 11:30 p.m. I am also speaking out as an individual not representing any organization or groups.

A reporter asked Amphi Board member Gary Woodard how long the Executive session would last while he was leaving the Board room. He turned and responded, "Anywhere between two to four hours." I find it curious that he now blames Nancy Young-Wright for the late-hour vote. Not only did he predict the length of the meeting, he knew the answer.

He also stated that late night votes were not "unusual" for Amphi. I think that statement says enough on its own.

Woodard's comment that this (raise), "will cost him money next year," may have done more to damage morale among the employees than anything else we've had to see in the media about Amphi this year. Teachers have complained for years about low raises costing us money because of the cost of living. Suddenly, a Board member admits that a pitiful raise actually costs employees money only when it hurts one of his own. I'd be willing to have my contract frozen for a couple of years if the Board were to raise my pay by $7,000.

The Board says that the superintendent will no longer receive merit pay and we should make it up to him somehow. Allow me to let the public in on a little secret: Some teachers receive merit pay in the form of Career Ladder. Career ladder is earned and performance must be proved. Each teacher on Career Ladder signs a form at the beginning of the year. This form instructs the teacher that if Career Ladder were no longer available then there will be no compensation to replace it. Further, there is no merit in "automatic" merit pay. This, in essence, is why the $7,000 is a raise.

I urge the community to read the contract and use common sense while attempting to decipher news articles on this matter. Once again, thanks to Jim Nintzel.

--Andy Morales

Amphitheater teacher

Eyewitless Snooze

To the Editor,

Max Reynold's letter "Oh, Savannah" (Tucson Weekly, December 18 ) is an obvious lament from a love-struck pup. Savannah Guthrie, while not a "one-bagger," is hardly "stunningly beautiful," or even close.

That she can adequately read from a brief script that covers only the surface of mostly meaningless stories is not proof of any competence or concern for us. She, like most of the local TV "news personalities," is room-temperatured IQ'd and pretty faced--over-paid, career-oriented slugs who know so little about what is really happening locally that their reports are generally embarrassing to watch.

This is not any different from local TV "news" in other cities. Film is more important than story content, looks win out over competence and hard issues are covered at a second-grade level. It seems incredible to me that with the hotly contested local ratings wars local stations are engaged in (that Channel 4 always wins), none of the others have tried an intelligent approach to a local news program.

This would include only one talking head (anchor person) to cut down on the mindless chit-chat, scaled back to weather reported briefly by the anchor person instead of a time-wasting, goofy weather dude, fewer repetitive headlines and lead-ins on upcoming stories and no perfunctory stories of crowded malls the day after Thanksgiving; lines at the post office for late income-tax filers; 50-acre forest fires in remote areas miles away that are reported only because there is film; or tragic accidents from across the country that are reported only because there is gut-wrenching video.

In place of some of this drivel, they could hire some competent but not necessarily pretty reporters with local knowledge and give them time and resources to investigate and report mostly local stories, and more air time to present them.

An innovative station with guts enough to try the groundbreaking format would probably loose the mouth-breathing viewers who can only relate to action video. In their place, however, would be many more viewers who actually tie their own shoes and appreciate being treated like adults.

Savannah Guthrie may or may not fit into this format max, but she'll need to do more than smile and tell us for the umpteenth time that the lights came on in Winterhaven.

--Doug Smith

Poor Score

To the Editor,

Regarding Dave Devine's "Food Fight" (Tucson Weekly, December 18 ): What is this "deserving poor" nonsense? Is it because of something in the blood or because we're not educated enough or don't have enough money or is it because we need someone to look down on to make ourselves feel better? If social services and service providers were so adept to helping those who may need it as they were to making a buck or a name and place for themselves, there wouldn't be any problems. They know there ain't enough jobs out there for people to make enough money to live on or they wouldn't be forcing people to volunteer.

It's bad enough that we're different in our own right, but to make us different like slaves, jobless, homeless, hungry, volunteers, etc. is just setting ourselves up for all kinds of abuses and crimes, etc.

--Lonnie R. Reiger, Jr.

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