Civic Association Says Teachers, Not Buildings, A Priority

"The Long Beach Civic Association believes that excellence in education begins with excellent teachers," says association member Joe DeFazio.

That's the message the civic association will spread through fliers, billboards and door to door canvassing. Voters decide next month on an $11 million bond issue.

The association wants them to think about splitting the money between teacher pay raises and buying land for a new high school.

"They need to know that teachers are below par with salaries and they need to know that we, sometime in the future, need to build a new high school. But we've got to purchase the land first and know we have a buildable site," DeFazio says.

Association members say the district should buy land for a new school and let expected revenues from future condos finance it.

Resident Mary Munkel says, "I think that a building does not teach your children. You need quality teachers, and in order to do that, you have to be competitive with the rest of the coast."

Another resident, Martha Gibson, says, "We are not competitive to the rest of our counties and we're losing teachers, good teachers. I think teachers make the high school, the elementary school and the middle schools, not the buildings."

In the few remaining weeks before the vote, the civic association will use its public relations campaign to try to convince citizens of that.

According to the Department of Education, teachers in Long Beach make $36,452 a year, plus a supplement the school district pays them each year from casino revenues. While their salaries are among the lowest on the Coast, there are other local school districts where teachers don't make as much.

In Ocean Springs, teacher pay is $35,083. Jackson County teachers and those in Hancock County make almost $34,000 and in the Bay St. Louis/Waveland school district, teachers are paid almost $35,000.