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Community College Raise Plan Raises Hackles Union Members Are Voting This Week On Complicated Wage Proposal

A proposed pay raise for full-time instructors at the Community Colleges of Spokane has some seeing green.

Others see red.

Some are just confused.

The complicated wage plan would raise the pay of top senior faculty members, many of whose salaries have hit the district’s ceiling.

Union members are voting this week on the plan, which also would raise minimum starting pay.

But while none of the 330 teachers would take a cut, some say the plan would slow advancement. And those instructors also are angry that years spent teaching at high schools or other colleges wouldn’t fully count toward CCS seniority.

The brouhaha has sparked a war of internal memos among instructors, each trying to unravel arguments spun by colleagues.

“A lot of people are more interested in this right now than any other issue on campus,” said Deborah Kyle, an English instructor at Spokane Community College and a former union president.

Pay long has been a big issue at CCS. The average full-time faculty member’s salary is $40,720 a year compared with the state average of $39,000, but the top scale is just $42,000. Some two-year schools in Washington pay their top teachers $55,000.

The reason the CCS faculty has a high average salary is that many are longtime instructors.

“The top of our scale has fallen way behind the K (kindergarten) through 12 teachers,” said union president Richard Cox. “… What you get is a salary that stagnates.”

He said he thinks the plan will be approved.

Kyle said she favors a new pay schedule but thinks the proposal still needs work.

Some instructors are more zealous.

An Oct. 6 memo sent by SCC math department chairwoman Susan Dimick projected that over four years, some near-top faculty members would get a cumulative raise of $3,284 while those at the very top would make $23,168 more.

“I sometimes dream of what it would be like to win the lottery,” Dimick wrote. “… A select group of faculty members are going to be able to experience what I may only dream of.”

SCC business instructor Bill Small wrote the faculty three days later. “Leave it to mathematicians to paint a picture slanted to their liking!” it read. That memo contained a series of tables contradicting Dimick’s figures.

The next day, Dimick said Small had made a $3,000 error. “Numbers certainly can be deceiving!” Dimick wrote.

Other memos followed. Tom McLuen, a Spokane Falls Community College instructor and former union head, wrote that the complainers are shortsighted - a higher top wage would benefit everyone eventually. “Year after year, those at the top have been funding salary increases for those of you everywhere else,” he wrote.

SCC math instructor Bob Branch urged everyone to vote against the plan, noting that “voting no does not commit us to the status quo.”

Dimick said she regrets the feud. She said she’s “stirred the pot,” and other instructors aren’t happy about it.

“It’s terrible. I think it’s extremely unfortunate that the faculty need to be bickering back and forth.”

Small couldn’t be reached Monday or Tuesday for comment.

Dimick says the proposed payment schedule is “glaringly unfair,” especially to those who spent years teaching elsewhere. The district would only recognize a maximum of four years of experience outside CCS. And those years aren’t counted in their entirety - years spent at a college outside CCS would be divided by two. Those at a high school would be divided by three. Those spent in a related vocation would be divided by four.

That makes MaryO Fury furious. The head of SCC’s office technology department has taught at a high school, at Big Bend Community College, and at Eastern Washington University.

“I do have several years’ experience before being contracted full time in this district,” Fury said. “We’ve become a very mobile society. .. Tt’s a matter of principle.”

Cox said the reason for not counting all outside experience is simple: There’s not enough money to move everyone up the pay scale at once.

A union document explains the plan. But its numerous tables can be confusing, even to the math-minded.

“The proposal itself is not a clear, concise document,” Dimick said. It’s so murky, she said, many instructors don’t understand it.

It turns into, “Who do you believe, who don’t you believe?” she said.

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Graphic: Community Colleges faculty pay increase