Sunday, October 22, 2017
Letter to Kentucky Legislators 10/22/17
Letter sent 10/21/17 to the legislators as part of my daily contact/ call to bring visibility to our concerns as educators in the Commonwealth. I sent this via email listing to each representative, and senator for the Commonwealth.
My name is Robert Fulk, Principal of The Marion C. Moore School in Louisville, KY JCPS. We are the largest school in the city of Louisville with an enrollment of over 2,150. I have over 240 folks that work for me here at Moore and right now, they are scared. I’d like to take a moment and give you some context as to why Pension Reform is so critical not only to our school, but to the Commonwealth, and our future generations of Kentuckians.
Without a doubt, I am invested in the future of our Commonwealth. I am Kentucky born, and my adult life has been in service to the school system. I own property, pay taxes, and volunteer my time to better my city and state. I am a member of the Board of Directors for the Olmsted Parks, the school board for St Nicholas Academy, and an active parishioner of OLMC. I am a father of three wonderful kids, and married to an educator. I am the principal of the largest school in the city of Louisville. THE Marion C. Moore, grades 6-12. We have over 2,150 students. I took this building over last year as it was failing, culture was terrible, and our programs were abysmal. In a year we’ve added engineering, Electricians track, Culinary Arts, Medical pathways, and dual credit for our students. We have opened the doors to prepare our students more fully for their next step, and our culture is growing rapidly, daily. In a year we have shown marked improvement in any measurable category and we are quickly becoming known for our turnaround. A big component of this is hiring. Last year I hired 78 staff. This year I’ve hired 37. One of the driving factors in new teachers in the pension, and for those of us already vested it is a huge component of why we choose this work. It is an essential recruitment and retention tool. Without the pension, I will lose quality applicants. This is an undeniable fact from any study on pension reform. We are already paid less than comparable fields with as much education, and removing the pension from this equation is shackling a system even further. I ask those of you that are businessmen and women, could you sustain high performance in your industry with my current hiring ratio? We are proud that in a year we have cut our hiring in half, but removing the pension will only make this problem worse. It is not sustainable.
By my best estimate I have paid in over $140,000 in my career, and this is my 14th year. 11%+ per paycheck, without fail, and without griping. Yet here we are now and I am told I may lose what is promised to me in an inviolable contract. Like any employer-employee relationship, teachers and school administrators accept their employment in schools based on assurances that they would receive certain levels of salary and benefits. More importantly, these assurances are in law. Each year that they have already worked represents a year in which they performed their obligations under that contract. The legislature must live up to its obligations as well, and continue to provide the benefits it has committed to provide for each of the years that the employee has already worked. Any retroactive reduction of benefits, including sick leave accumulation, would represent a breach of contractual obligations. The current plan presented this week is not good. Aside from the defacto pay cut of 3%, the burden placed on the district of 2%, and the provision of putting the pension aside if you work more than 100 hours for a state institution (how will we have retired subs, retired administrator covering schools in between principals, or retired folks teaching at public universities?) this plan is not keeping the promise.
I have, and all of my people have fulfilled my end of the contract faithfully. As principal of the largest school in the city of Louisville I average about 70 hours a week of work. I do not get social security. I am compensated well, but if you remove the pension from the equation good luck finding people with as many degrees as an average principal has (and eventually a Doctorate) that will work on average 3300+ hours a year for our students. I am the norm for an effective school principal. Removing the pension from our field will result in less qualified teachers, and in my case, school leaders. You do not want this, not for the future of the Commonwealth. I have worked my time with the assurance the pension will be there. I am expecting to retire in 17-18 years or so when I hang it up that my pension will be there, intact; as quite frankly it is your obligation to fulfill this contract. Whether or not you or the previous body of legislators have mismanaged, underfunded, or otherwise kicked the can down the road is immaterial to me, my teachers, my classified folks, and any else in education. We have done our part.
You have an obligation to me, and to the 240 employees in my building, and the rest of us around the state. This will be the primary issue on which I base my votes for either of your reelection, and what I communicate as a member of our community. I urge you to do the right thing and protect our pension. We have done our part, faithfully. I will confess, I believe this will be found on deaf ears. I have contacted Senator Seum, and Representative Donahue several times with no response, a trend mirrored by several of my staff, as these men are our legislators for the Highview area. This issue is essential to us, and to the future of the Commonwealth.
I send this to you as a citizen of our Commonwealth, a sitting school principal, the HS role group representative of JCASA, a volunteer on numerous boards, and as a father who is relying on his pension for his twilight years. Please consider what you are doing to the future of the Commonwealth.
The Marion C. Moore School
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