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Northumberland High School teacher questions slashed pay

Posted on Thursday, July 24, 2014 at 9:00 am

With everybody else in the school system getting a pay raise in the coming year, Tammy Wilkins wants to know why her pay has been slashed by 12 percent.

And she’s retained a lawyer to get to the bottom of it.

Last week Patrick O’Brien, Wilkins’ lawyer, filed a request for an ”informal mediation” with Superintendent of Schools Dr. Rebecca Gates on Wilkins’ behalf. The procedure is the first step in settling disputes, O’Brien said Thursday. If the differences between Wilkins and the schools isn’t settled in the administrative process, a lawsuit could be filed.

O’Brien said that the contract given Wilkins for next year calls for her to perform the same duties she has been performing for a number of years that primarily deal with students involved in the schools’ Practical Assessment Exploration System program. The most visible aspect of the program is the greenhouse Wilkins and her students maintain at the high school. Last year the greenhouse netted $3,000 for the school, Wilkins said Saturday. Oddly, her contract for next year cuts her pay about the same amount.

O’Brien said that both he and his client are perplexed by the schools’ actions against her. In the past several years she has been nationally recognized for her efforts with the PAES students and has also been invited to speak at national conferences.

“ As we know, there is money in the school budget to continue Mrs. Wilkins’ previous compensation; we cannot understand the reason for her compensation reduction. She has achieved an enviable record of success with her students; has brought nationwide positive attention to the NHS-PAES program; and has generated far more revenue for the school system than anyone anticipated,” O’Brien wrote to Gates. ”We can only conclude that her pay cut was and is a product of retaliation of some kind.”

Last year, the months of Wilkins’ service were reduced, so this is the second year in a row her pay has been dropped, although her duties haven’t changed.

Wilkins and O’Brien have a meeting with Gates on the matter on Wednesday.

Gates said Monday that she could not comment on a personnel matter such as the one raised by Wilkins.