Long Story Short: Teacher pay, traditions, and sharks both legal and artful
Playing the teacher salary game
An Albany-based think tank—part of the State University of New York—recently published a study on public school pay in different New York districts during the 2017-18 school year. The Rockefeller Institute of Government says it conducted this study “because [teacher pay] has become such a politically charged issue across the United States.”
Stirring the pot
To ensure that the topic remains politically charged, the Buffalo News used the study as a basis for a story titled, "How much do teachers make in your district?" In the article, the newspaper compared the median salaries of several school districts, a comparison that means next to nothing. Any business that has a graduating pay scale and employees with different years of experience will have differing median salaries at different locations. General Motors will. So will Walmart stores. Even within a single school district with identical pay scales, individual schools will have different median salaries.
After senselessly comparing several districts, the News quotes the director of the Rockefeller Institute as saying, “Overall, salaries among [New York] teachers are doing quite well compared to those similar degree holders." To which we say, good!
Higher pay may encourage more young people to put up with the added demands and expense of becoming a certified teacher. Higher salaries may even make prospective educators willing to tolerate the politics in education, the bureaucracy, disrespect, lack of authority, the vagaries of school boards, superintendents, and Albany, and the continuous stream of mandates touted as “revolutionary new” solutions to “failing” schools.
The article goes on to say that it’s not always the most affluent districts in which teachers are paid the most. And we say, good, again! That’s something of a welcome surprise. Poorer districts have the greatest obstacles to success. They’re the most stressful and demanding on educators. Those districts deserve added pay for added pressure, for greater discipline problems, for demoralization from working harder while being singled out for lower student achievement, and for the extra challenge of teaching students who are often absent. Every teacher wants to teach in districts like Williamsville. Few want the stress of some schools in Buffalo, Lackawanna, or Niagara Falls.
We get it. Some taxpayers don’t like paying teachers well for a job that they perceive as having short hours and long vacations. Here’s our response—and this goes for members of the media—if you think it’s such a cushy profession, why not try it yourself?
Horror of horrors: high school traditions questioned
“You may ask, ‘how did this tradition get started?’ I'll tell you. I don't know. But it's a tradition.” Fiddler on the Roof
Speaking of Williamsville
The district is under pressure for considering ending the practice of having graduating boys wear blue gowns and girls wear white. Nothing shakes some people’s sense of cultural identity like altering a meaningless antiquated tradition. It makes ordinary people dance like Tevye, and sing, “Tradition…tradition!”
The district wants parents and students to understand it’s in the earliest stages of contemplating such a change. But why? Simply because some people don’t like being color-coded by gender. But here’s another good reason—the practice is stupid. Why categorize graduating students according to their sexual organs, like you’re sexing baby chicks?
It’s a tradition! (Tradition…tradition!) So what if it makes a few people uncomfortable? (Tradition…tradition!)
Not the king and queen, too!
Williamsville is also weighing other designations for the homecoming “court,” besides king and queen. Lots of people are up in arms about this; 823 signatures appear on an online petition demanding the tradition be retained. Why do people care? Because the best looking, most popular kids deserve the kind of added validation you only get from a plastic crown. Sadly, in some districts, students have used homecoming king and queen elections to “goof” on unpopular students, with some instances receiving widespread attention for cruelty.
You want tradition? Let’s go.
In many schools, boys once swam nude in gym class. Why did we get rid of that tradition? Perhaps because some students were uncomfortable? Should we bring that tradition back? Until fairly recently, the Kenmore East High School girls’ basketball team had a pre-match tradition of forming a circle and chanting, “One, two, three, [n-word]!" They stopped after a black student joined the team, and someone alerted school officials. They didn’t want to make that new player uncomfortable. Another fine tradition gone! When I attended high school, we had a dress code: no t-shirts, no jeans, no boots. Tradition…tradition! Want these traditions back?
Times change; get used to it. (Note: in Fiddler on the Roof, the world changes despite Tevye’s resistance.)
Injury attorney claims financial injury
It’s been a while since we reported on the antics of everybody’s favorite attorneys, Cellino & Barnes. When last we left the litigation luminaries, Barnes was suing Cellino to keep the band together. Cellino wants to dissolve their lucrative partnership and start his own family firm. That lawsuit has been lingering in court for two years.
Cellino’s wife and daughter, who are both attorneys with the same famous last name, have started their own firm, and named it Cellino & Cellino. So, new lawsuit. This time, Barnes claims Cellino & Cellino is using the name to confuse the public. The lawsuit even points out that the new firm’s telephone number comprises parts of Cellino and Barnes’ new and old numbers. Daughter, Annmarie Cellino, insists that dad is not involved in the new firm, and ethics rules require lawyers in New York State to use their own names. The lawsuit claims otherwise. It’s technically Cellino & Barnes (of which Ross Cellino is half), that’s trying to get an injunction to stop Cellino & Cellino from infringing on their company trademark.
To be continued.
Speaking of lawyers
You gotta hand it to defense attorney Dominic Saraceno, who entered a not-guilty plea on behalf of Michael Ciskiewic, the man charged in Niagara Falls with kidnapping, rape, burglary, assault, and menacing. The horrific details of the crime are covered in a recent Buffalo News article, but suffice it to say that it looks pretty bad for Ciskiewic, since the victim was found chained in his basement.
Pivoting like a pro
We’re not judging guilt or innocence, and Ciskiewic has a history of mental illness, but Saraceno gets the pivot-of-the-year award, for this line: "This should be a wake-up call to our lawmakers that we can't continue to ignore the mental health crisis in our community."
So, according to Saraceno, it’s lawmakers who are at fault here, for ignoring a mental health crisis, which, presumably enabled his client to commit these heinous acts, after which he mowed some lawns as neighbors and police searched for the missing woman. Insanity is a defense if a defendant doesn’t comprehend the ''legal and moral import of the conduct involved.'' Ciskiewic ran and hid in a cluster of trees after being discovered.
At least Saraceno isn’t blaming the victim.
Shark Girl to undergo makeover
It’s tough on a girl, being the center of so much attention. The girl in question is the shark-headed young lady in the blue dress that’s such a hit among Canalside visitors. Shark Girl has undergone several light repairs in the past, but sometime after Labor Day, the toothed one will disappear for eight to ten weeks and undergo a major restoration. The repair work will be done with the artist’s supervision, at a cost of up to $49,900 for repairs and maintenance, which is almost certainly much more than the original sculpture cost to create.
No one doubts its value. The sculpture is enormously popular, practically a landmark, and the star of countless selfies. Last year, Shark Girl was included in the Huffington Post’s list of “35 Instagramworthy Subjects, Renowned to Obscure, in the Northeast USA.” Every now and then, a work of art taps into the zeitgeist of culture. Shark Girl is one of those.
Long Story Short is an opinion column by artist and educator Bruce Adams, a longtime contributor to Buffalo Spree.
Get Long Story Short delivered directly to your mailbox as an e-newsletter. Sign up today!