BUFFALO, NY - Buffalo Business First is out with its latest rankings regarding schools, with a look at teacher salaries in Upstate New York based on data supplied by the New York State Department of Education.
The data is from 2011, the latest year for which numbers are available.
The rankings show that some of the highest paid teachers in the state --outside of New York City -can be found right here in Western New York and that better salaries do not always mean better results with students.
Of the 431 upstate districts surveyed, four of the top ten are in Western New York; Sweet Home (4th) Williamsville (8th) Lackawanna (9th) and North Tonawanda (10th)
"You really have to dig into the data," cautioned Phillip Rumore, President of the Buffalo Teachers Federation, which is the largest teacher's union in Western New York.
"If you have a more veteran staff, then obviously the salaries are going to be higher. If you don't, the salaries are going to be lower," Rumore told WGRZ-TV.
"We do have more of a senior staff here," said North Tonawanda Superintendent Gregory Woytila.
"We probably have 60 to 70 staff members that are on the top step (of the salary scale) and that grows every year as they reach that," Woytila said.
Teacher layoffs can also affect the numbers and North Tonawanda has had its share in recent years. Unlike in private industry where more experienced and higher paid workers are generally the first to go, the opposite is true in academia
"When you lay off teachers, the last in is the first out...so your lower paid teachers are being laid off which leaves you with a higher pool of salaries left to average," Woytila said.
The manner in which union contracts are structured can also influence median pay and it varies among districts how long it can take a teacher to reach that mark.
"Starting out teachers probably get paid less to come to North Tonawanda, but there are jumps in scales for longevity and staying in teaching which our staff have that maybe another district doesn't."
The data does not necessarily support the notion that districts paying higher salaries will see a better performance among students, as the survey shows some of the higher paying districts are on the lower end of Business First's most recent rankings for academics.
Although Rumore still insists, "most of the studies that I've read have shown that if you want to have better results and you want to hire the best and the brightest, you have to pay them a good salary."
The numbers also seem to know no economic bounds, with some districts serving areas struggling economically, like Lackawanna and North Tonawanda, ranking right up there with more affluent areas like Williamsville in terms of teacher pay.
Woytila was the only one of the WNY Superintendents whose districts were ranked in the top ten to agree to speak with Two On Your Side regarding the rankings.
One other Superintendent refused comment, saying he didn't think the reasons could be explained in an understandable way, and that there was no way to do it "in a manner which would reflect positively on our district."
Two other Superintendents we attempted to reach did not return phone calls seeking their comments.
Click on the video player to watch our story from 2 On Your Side Reporter Dave McKinley and Photojournalist Charles Moore.
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