By Timothy Chipp
Teaching experience is a double-edged sword.
On one hand, teachers who have spent years in the classroom are sometimes more capable of instruction and reaching students effectively than their younger, less experienced coworkers.
In districts like the Niagara Falls City School District, teachers with years of experience walk many of the building hallways throughout the 12 education centers it currently maintains.
"We've all been saying for a while now that our teachers are highly qualified in the field of education and are a wonderful resource for both our school district and our community as a whole," said Niagara Falls Teachers President Marcus Latham.
Niagara Falls's teacher experience itself is almost unquestioned in the area, as the county's largest educational employer. But Buffalo Business First confirmed just how experienced the district is with its annual ranking of teacher experience for more than 420 districts across all of upstate New York. The city's teachers ranked 14th in the list.
Using data from the state Education Department, districts were ranked by the amount of years its full-time teachers have in the classroom. Districts, like Niagara Falls, with top scores, awarded five-star designations by the publication, have high numbers of educators with 10 or more years in the classroom. Those with lower scores have more teachers with fewer than 10 years experience.
On the flip side of in-class experience is the cost associated with veteran teachers, a reality Niagara falls has dealt with in other Business First rankings throughout the years. With high cost to the district in the classroom, spokeswoman Judie Glaser said, creative ways of saving money out of it have been necessary.
"Our district has shorn up its spending in the last few years especially in remarkably nimble ways," she said, "(including) consolidating buildings and services, implementing energy cost-saving measures, not replacing staff lost through attrition, leveraging our extraordinarily high poverty rate to help make capital projects possible at a state reimbursement rate of nearly 90 percent."
Glaser said teachers with experience are good for districts because they're "well-seasoned" in the classroom. She said the community spending its money on children shows what the community values.
"I'll take the experienced teachers any day," Glaser said. "If it costs a little more, they have earned it. That's why the new plumber charges less than the master plumber. He doesn't know as much and he's going to learn on your plumbing."
Not far behind Niagara Falls in the rankings is Wilson Central Schools, which comes in at No. 18. Grand Island is about halfway down the list at No. 217, while Niagara-Wheatfield and Lewiston-Porter ranked at 309 and 336, respectively, with younger employees.