In 2010 an experimental public elementary school, the New American Academy, was launched in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. Classrooms are open, with as many as 60 students in classes that use open classrooms utilizing progressive educational philosophies. The several teachers are part of the class, and they travel together with their students as they move up to higher grades. There are as many as four teachers associated with each class, who all work together as a team, with one master teacher in charge of the entire group.
In this arrangement, the master teacher, who assists her less experienced colleagues to improve their teaching skills, was paid an annual salary of $125,000. Substantially more than the usual pay scale for teachers in the New York City school system.
As of September 7, of this year, the first day of the new school year, 21 teachers at the New American Academy will have their incomes seriously slashed, in some cases by as much as $50,000 less per year. Teachers and parents at the Academy are angered by the Education Department’s decision to bring the school’s remuneration policy in line with other schools in the system.
“It’s gross, it’s horrible, it feels hopeless to try to change the system,” one New American Academy teacher said. The teacher will suffer a $50,000 pay cut under the new system. “It’s heartbreaking,” the teacher added, who wants to remain anonymous to protect her job. “This is the most inspirational place I’ve worked in. But I don’t feel represented by either my union or the Department of Education.”
The principal of the school did not comment on the cuts. A spokeswoman for the DOE, Toya Holness did not explain why the city was cutting the teacher’s salaries, only that they did it.
“The agreement ended and we didn’t renew it,” said Holness, who asserted that the city really does support its teachers.
The teacher’s union has decided not to fight the decision.
“While we believe that the program was a worthwhile experiment and would have continued to back it, the Department of Education decided not to renew it,” said union spokeswoman Alison Gendar.
Parents are afraid that the slashed salaries will harm the great spirit that permeates the school.
“The teachers should be rewarded for all the hard work they’ve done,” said one parent, who asked not to be named because she’s involved in the school’s parent association.