Sen. Shadrack, meet Kay Fagerstrom

Published 12:00 am Saturday, February 4, 2012

I don’t know Alabama Sen. Shadrack McGill. But I would dearly love to introduce him to AMS’s Kay Fagerstrom.

In case you missed it, McGill, a Woodville Republican, ticked off the entire teaching community this week when he said there would be negative consequences to paying teachers more.

“It’s a Biblical principle. If you double a teacher’s pay scale, you’ll attract people who aren’t called to teach,” McGill said. Raising teachers’ pay, he said, would attract undesirables to the profession.

“If you don’t keep that in balance, you’re going to attract people who are not called, who don’t need to be teaching our children,” McGill said.

In the same prayer breakfast, the senator defended the 2007 action in which legislators’ pay was raised by 61 percent. That, he said, “kept them honest.”

He is also the senator who last year proposed legislation tying legislators’ salaries to teachers’. That’s right. Legislators, who work part-time, should get the average teacher’s salary, plus benefits, he thought last year.

The topic of teachers’ pay came up because another senator plans to propose a 2.5 percent increase in pay for teachers on the job fewer than nine years.

Issues affecting education also were among the topics at Tuesday night’s town hall meeting here, hosted by Rep. Mike Jones and Sen. Jimmy Holley. Educators argue that their pay was cut last year by legislation requiring them to pay more toward their retirement. When someone criticized public education, the aforementioned Mrs. Fagerstrom stood up.

Officially, Kay is the librarian at Andalusia Middle School. Parents of AMS students see her as much, much more. But Tuesday night, she was speaking as a defender of her profession.

“I have been at school since 7:30 this morning,” she said. “And I tried to greet every child by name. I try to treat every child just like I would like my child to be treated.”

And if you think a teacher is paid too much, she said, ask her how much she’s spent to make life better for her students.

I quizzed her about that later this week.

“When was the last time the secretaries, police officers, office personnel, representatives, etc. bought pens, pencils, paper, tape, books and anything else needed to run an efficient organization? Well, it is common for educators to make these purchases.

“While we are at it, I would love to compare the facilities of these state representatives. How many extension cords do they have running all over their offices? I have about five at the moment. What about their office furniture? We (AMS) sell snacks to buy student desks. My desk is a cast off from a bank (I believe). They got something better, but I am really pleased with it.

“Equipment. How well do the computers run when the representatives are in session,” she asked. “I have yet to have a presentation where all equipment was compatible etc.”

And then, the subject nearest her own heart.

“EVERYBODY will agree that the most important skill we can give our students is the power of reading. EVERYONE wants their own child to be a strong reader, but it has been four years of NO state library money. Someone please explain.”

Through private fundraising efforts, Kay has acquired 13 Amazon Kindles for the AMS library, as well as access to electronic books for students with their own Kindles.

There is no doubt that Kay was “called” to combine her love of books and her love of children as a positive force for middle school children in our city.

But Shadrick McGill is wrong to say that the “calling” is enough. She and others deserve to be fairly compensated for what they do, and to be provided the tools with which to do their jobs.