How about those school secretaries? Can I get a booyah!? The text below was printed in the Tuesday edition (4/21/2015) of the Superior Telegram. Here’s a link to the letter at their website, although it will probably disappear soon. This was written as an ode to my wife, who is a school secretary extraordinaire. I’ll add more editorial comments at the bottom.
This week is Administrative Professional’s Week in the U.S. In the old days, it was known as National Secretaries Week. My particular interest lies with those who are administrative professionals at our schools, especially those within the School District of Superior.
What are some of the different jobs these people perform on a regular basis? Here’s a partial list:
• She (or it could be a he) is a public relations specialist when a parent has a complaint about a teacher or a policy or a school incident.
• She performs triage when an ailing or injured student walks in the office and the school nurse is already occupied or otherwise unavailable.
• She is the security officer, deciding who is allowed past the locked front door and who isn’t.
• She is the receptionist who first greets visitors after they enter the school.
• She’s the shrink who listens while students and colleagues pour out their troubles.
• She assumes the role of the Public Information Officer when a journalist (or blogger) calls for information about an incident or for any other reason.
• She’s the social worker who keeps both eyes on the lookout for signs of a child in danger.
• She’s the legal eagle who tries to protect students and staff by knowing who has which restraining order and who just got charged for drug possession or child neglect.
• She’s also the one who puts up with a multitude of crazy parents that think she’s not doing a good enough job raising their children for them.
• She is the babysitter that parents take advantage of when they don’t pick their kids up from school in a timely manner. She often stays late because at least one kid is still sitting in her office waiting to be picked up, hours after school ended.
• She is the superhero who will be the human shield to protect your child from physical harm.
• She’s the administrative support professional who doesn’t care if you call her a secretary; because if she had that kind of an ego, she never would have taken this job in the first place.
• You might have noticed that most of the items above are not typical duties of a secretary. You’d be right about, and yes, she does those normal support things as well.
She’s also the person who gets derided because she “gets the summers off, so how hard can that job be?” Then she bites her tongue rather than explaining that after going through 10 months of the activities on list above on a daily basis, that yes, a person needs some time to get her own head on straight and to fire up for the next 10 months of stress and lack of appreciation.
She’s also a mother, wife, sister, daughter, friend and neighbor. Appreciation. Respect. Love. They deserve it, and then some.
End of letter to the editor
She’s also one of the school employees with the lowest compensation, both in salary and in total. I would never argue that the teachers and others at the school should be paid less, because they shouldn’t. I can argue strenuously that the administrative support personnel should be compensated more highly. Here are a few of my thoughts about their compensation:
- My wife is a skilled restaurant manager and server. She could make as much money waiting tables three nights a week at a decent restaurant as she makes as a school secretary.
- Her school district benefits have been stripped to the level where they no longer matter much, so again a server position with no benefits is pretty much at the same level.
- Because she has time off in the summer, her cost of family health insurance benefits (which we can’t afford in the first place) would be higher than what her boss (the principal) would pay for family health insurance. Since she is not on the payroll at all during July, she (and other employees in similar positions) would have to pay the full cost of the health insurance premium for that month. For family coverage, that would be approximately $1,500 for that one month. So yes, the lowly-paid school secretary would pay $1,500 more annually for her health insurance than does the much more highly-paid school principal. Maybe this is moot since the cost of health insurance is so far out of bounds in the first place.
- My wife has the skills to be employed in more highly compensated positions. That’s a good thing, because if I died or became unable to work, there is ZERO CHANCE that she could support herself and our kids on what she makes as a school secretary. She would have to quit the job that she loves in order to support her family. In other words, the only way that our family can afford for her to work as a school secretary is for my salary to subsidize the low pay offered by the school district. I wouldn’t care about that if they deserved her loyalty – but they don’t. Their actions about employee compensation speaks much more loudly than their words of faint praise.