Westford Academy #22 on Boston Magazine's 2012 List

Westford Academy rose five spots from last year on the magazine's prestigious list of the best high schools in the greater Boston area.


Westford Academy was recently named as #22 on Boston Magazine's top 50 high schools in Eastern Massachusetts for 2012.

The result marks a five place improvement from

Westford also ranked third among cost per pupil on the list, falling behind only Georgetown and Millis High Schools.

Westford did better than neighboring Littleton, which was #31, but was below other nearby schools such as Lincoln-Sudbury (#16), Acton-Boxborough (#9), Concord-Carlisle (#4) and Lexington (#2).

The list was calculated from a variety of factors taken from over 200 high schools in the greater Boston area.

John Luke September 04, 2012 at 08:38 PM
Well I can tell you the money being wasted isn't going on a extravagant Special Education program because common knowledge is we are to the bone stingy with sped around here and perhaps bend over backwards to keep kids off expensive IEP Ed plans (take a look at Westfords Sped %, luck?)
joseph mcgruff September 04, 2012 at 08:43 PM
Vince, you are right, but that fiscal figure is for ALL Westford schools, and not just WA which this article refers to. Thanks for the document attachemnt though! I'll be the Tree Warden for 20K a year by the way...hello? hello?
Vincent DiRico September 04, 2012 at 08:43 PM
I am not an expert this is a cool website http://profiles.doe.mass.edu/state_report/teachersalaries.aspx I took a look at data between 2010/11 - 2000/01 2010/11 salary total:$24,753,858 average salary: $69,319 FTE: 357 2000/01 salary total: $15,307,434 average salary: $47,911 FTE: 320 I see that as unsustainable! Taking an "extra" is a disguised tax INCREASE!
joseph mcgruff September 04, 2012 at 09:04 PM
Vince, $50 million is the operating cost for ALL 10 schools in town, not just WA. My farmer's market blog netted over 130 comments, BY FAR the most successful blog in for the Westford Patch's history...I am decently informed and not going anywhere, sorry pal ; )
John Luke September 04, 2012 at 09:14 PM
Average salary doesn't tell story as previously mentioned the % of vets vs newbies can skew district pay toward either end, If you want to compare WA teachers with those in other towns pick a spot on the scale: let's use 15 years experience with a masters degree or masters degree and a CAGS, you will see that WA teacher very often at/near the lowest paid
joseph mcgruff September 04, 2012 at 09:33 PM
John I trust what you are saying but am curious where you are pulling your facts from? Or are you just speaking from experience and from what you hear from other educators or is the a link you can provide that reflects avg salaries per hs? Thanks
Vincent DiRico September 04, 2012 at 09:43 PM
the total $ spent tells the WHOLE story, do with it what you like, $25 MILLION is $25 MILLION, the owner of the house needs to manage the $25 MILLION, as would be the case in the private sector
Vincent DiRico September 04, 2012 at 09:56 PM
"$50 million is the operating cost for ALL 10 schools in town" -> when we start funding WA separately your point have some meaning, until then it adds no value
John Luke September 04, 2012 at 10:39 PM
I do not have an average salary list but have seen them posted (Boston Globe?) in the past but I am warning that although I remember the average salary in WPS as lower this tells an incomplete and possibly misleading story, a district could pay well but have a huge influx of just out of college teachers making less and thus making the average teacher there seem lower paid as compared to other towns, WA (and Westford) is ok average with pay for new teachers but the more experienced they become the more their salaries fall short I think it's great WA is #22 something to be PROUD of (no poison) but its does raise questions about how competitively we pay our teachers (unless we think there is no relationship at all between teachers and school ranking in which case we can fire teachers and hire Monkies or whathaveyou and save millions)
Elaine McKenna September 04, 2012 at 10:48 PM
OMG!!! Could somebody say "Congratulations" on a job well done!
Jamaal September 04, 2012 at 10:56 PM
Boston globe has published in the past some data on average salaries and Westford was middle to lower of all MA schools but my point is that this isn't the whole picture the MA DOE website has contracts from all MA schools pick a point on the scale and compare WA teacher with a teacher on the same place ( many other places have steps after Masters+30) like I said YOU will find WA teachers are not even close to #22 (or maybe we think there is zero relationship between teachers and school ranking in which case lets fire the teachers and put monkies or whathaveyou in the classrooms and save the money for extra fire stations, bleachers, private camps) The fact we have the 22nd best MA high school is something to be proud of (no poison) lets let Andrew see how our teacher salaries measure up
Brian September 05, 2012 at 12:13 AM
#22 is nice out of 222 (top 10%) considering the low APPE. Only two others have a lower APPE with a ranking in the top 50. I wonder if it would be higher if the APPE was higher. It also took someone after their 6 previous comments before they actually commented on the actual article itself. Sounds like they have an ax to grind. The "spewing poison" comments have gotten pretty old.
Andrew Sylvia (Editor) September 05, 2012 at 01:06 AM
Just deleted several comments. Will be back later to check for more. Will turn off auto-approve and suspend accounts if I have to. If you want to talk about the subject of this article, that is fine. Violations of the Terms of Service however will not be tolerated. You have been warned...
The Truth September 05, 2012 at 01:04 PM
We got the teachers to take less money to do the same job what's not to love? I hope we play hardball again when this contract is up to save money, some people like getting standout schools at a bargain price and don't want to pay a penny more than necessary, this gives a good value to the taxpayer , if we could get away with paying out teachers LAST in the state and be in the top 25 we should celebrate the thriftiness not be ashamed for taking this path. Love it or leave it teachers are very replaceable in this new economy and there are educated teachers in India and China who easy replace them at a fraction of the price and no union
Andrew Sylvia (Editor) September 05, 2012 at 06:53 PM
Auto-approved comments have been turned off.
Alex Finnegan September 06, 2012 at 05:02 AM
"Jamaal, any idea where Westford does fall?" We are approximately in the 40th percentile if you just count pay. If you add in days worked, insurance benefits etc it's lower. I'll be back w/ more info later.
Kaio September 06, 2012 at 04:43 PM
As a parent, the statistic I am most interested in is the "% to College". Nothing else is more important. We are at 99%! Go WA!
Martin Luther September 06, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Remove the dollar/pupil element from the ranking equation and WA shoots up into the top 10. Ranking the WPS using MCAS and SAT results bring the WPS into the top 5. Are the teachers solely responsible for this performance? NO Teachers and administrators do play a role but family income, educational status, and ethnic group plays a large role. A check at MA DOE for ethnic composition of the students of WPS shows a large increase in the number of Asian students. Are Asian students blessed with higher IQs? I do not know but based on the experience of California schools, educational achievement data shows that Asian students outperform all other ethnic groups in educational achievement. The pay for a given position is based on the amount that the community taxpayers can afford. Note that should be taken that less than 50% of the households have student in the WPS. Furthermore, very few individuals (less than 15%) live in Mac Mansions so comparing Westford with Weston in ability to pay is not a valid comparison. The same holds true for median household income. Some individuals appear to be dissatisfied with the level of their compensation. To those individuals, I point to Lowell, Cambridge, and Boston schools which have salary scales that pay 30 to 40% higher salaries. How can these poor cities afford to pay these salaries? In worked in the Lowell PS and over 75% of their expenditures were covered by federal and state funds.
Alex Finnegan September 07, 2012 at 04:48 AM
"We got the teachers to take less money to do the same job what's not to love? I hope we play hardball again when this contract is up to save money, some people like getting standout schools at a bargain price and don't want to pay a penny more than necessary, this gives a good value to the taxpayer , if we could get away with paying out teachers LAST in the state and be in the top 25 we should celebrate the thriftiness not be ashamed for taking this path. Love it or leave it teachers are very replaceable in this new economy and there are educated teachers in India and China who easy replace them at a fraction of the price and no union" Would you work a job where your employer treated you like that? Why not apply it to all town employees? For that matter, why not apply that to all jobs and industries? Morale is a very important aspect of keeping your workforce. A high turnover rate is highly destructive to any workforce, and it spreads to everyone. IE a high turnover rate of teachers would lead to a high turnover rate of admin. No one wants to work where there is instability, people aren't going to want to apply in an unstable environment. Present your strategy to anyone with an MBA or has run a company and see what they think of your plan. It's a fail.
Alex Finnegan September 07, 2012 at 04:54 AM
"To those individuals, I point to Lowell, Cambridge, and Boston schools which have salary scales that pay 30 to 40% higher salaries" Here is a breakdown of local schools with similar enrollment/teachers. Carlisle 185 days $7k-$20k more, extra pay column M + 60 Better insurance split Concord 185 days $17K -23K 3 extra columns Concord/Carlisle 185 days 22k-26k 4 extra columns Tyngsborough within a few hundred dollars of W but work 181 days instead of Westford’s 185, they have 3 extra columns and reach top pay in 12 years instead of Westford’s now 15 years. Essentially, they pay more. Chelmsford 182 days 75/25 insurance split vs. Westfords 60/40 for an equivalent HMO 2-5k less Top pay in 13 years. The better insurance split and few days puts them likely a little above Westford. Acton $2500-4k less 182 day year, 75/25 insurance split = same as above Littleton 180 days 75/25 They haven’t released pay scale numbers for a while but they are right on par with Westford for the 06-08 years. Top pay in 13 years. Unless they nose dived on pay, they are most likely making more than Westford. Dracut 185 days 10 steps 4 extra columns 5k less. Since I don’t’ know the insurance split it’s hard to compare. They work a lot of days, but make $100 a week less. Even with a generous insurance split it’s very likely they are compensated less than Westford, but they reach top pay 5 years ealier. In the end they fair worse than Westford.
Alex Finnegan September 07, 2012 at 05:11 AM
Jamaal, I've done and posted tons of research on it, it does no good. Westford loses money in so many places but it's put on the teachers because it's the latests popular rhetoric. There are many places with teachers who are highly paid and people are demanding a correction. It's been applied to Westford as well when audits, comparisons, contracts, whatever you want to compare, Westford is compensated considerably less than average. The anti teacher rhetoric doesn't belong here and money shortfalls are certainly not because of your teachers so why they are going after them is just bad form. Don't say all town employees did it, other unions reach top pay in approx 5-8 years and start at higher pay with less education. Asking them to skip a year is not the same thing. I've still yet to get an answer from the town as to how many of those other union employees were already at top pay so skipping a year would mean nothing to them anyway. People complain about their taxes going up, having to pay more for this or that. Not only is that happening everywhere but that's not the teachers fault either, but I see little pressing of the elected officials that actually run the town and make those calls. Lowest Sped counts, (costs less to educate) highest efficient teachers (they do more with your dollar) below average pay, and whatever you attribute it to, great results. Messing with that system is stupid on it's face
Vincent DiRico September 07, 2012 at 11:19 AM
thanks for helping to make the point with statements like "most likely making more than Westford", ... you can try to come back with apples to apples, () = total salary CARLISLE = 57 FTE ($7,991,417) CONCORD = 152 FTE ($12,693,575) CONCORD CARLISLE = 89 FTE ($7,991,417) TYNGSBOROUGH = 135 FTE ($8,740,816) CHELMSFORD = 340 FTE ($22,601,526) ACTON = 140 FTE ($10,565,912) LITTLETON = 98 FTE ($7,546,588) DRACUT = 233 FTE ($15,903,453) WESTFORD = 357 FTE ($24,753,858)
Ken T September 07, 2012 at 01:47 PM
How is it Apples to Apples when the size (students) in those districts vary greatly? Littleton High 700 students, WA 1700, of course bigger districts are going to have more teacher salary (I notice Boston isn't on the list) why don't we divide salary by students and come closer to apples to apples? More smoke and mirrors!
Alex Finnegan September 09, 2012 at 05:23 AM
Vincent, Those aren't apples/apples (some aren't even correct) or relevant. Those numbers are teachers payroll, w/o benefits, or number of days worked. It also doesn't take into account what step the teachers are at. What I posted gives you an idea of the deal teachers get in those towns, it doesn't get more simple than that. How does hypothesizing on minor details "make your point?" Ken had it right, those numbers are nothing w/o some math (even then they don't tell the whole story. Whats interesting to get those numbers you went to a site that gives you the average salaries along with the numbers you posted. Why did you not post the average? Even w/the average to make it mean anything at all you must divide by number of contracted days worked. Here are how your examples work out. I put them in order from highest pay to lowest pay. 1. Concord/Carlisle $89,892 / 185 = $485.90 2. Concord $83,291 / 185 = $450.22 3. Carlisle $82,489 / 185 = $445.88 4. Littleton $77,242 / 180 = $429.12 5. Acton $75,741 / 182 = $416.16 6. Westford $69,319 / 185 = $374.70 7. Dracut $68,284 / 185 = $369.10 8. Chelmsford $66,416 / 182 = $364.92 9. Tyngsborough $64,795 / 181 = $357.98
Alex Finnegan September 09, 2012 at 06:32 AM
Westford is 6th out of 9. But you can see a jump of over $40 a day from Acton to Westford but only $5 a day separates the bottom four in that list. The difference between Westford and the lowest Tyngsborough is about $16 a day. However, Tyngsborough reaches top pay 3 years earlier than Westford, and also bumps pay more easily than Westford (more pay columns) To get a true picture we would need to take what we just calculated and factor in all other benefits. However I have done that and Westford drops even lower. Trying to argue that Westford teachers are well paid, over paid or whatever compared to the rest of local districts or even the state is a losing battle. I've crunched the numbers, I've compared the contracts. I've examined the true adjusted compensation more than anyone else on this forum. And I can tell you without a doubt that Westford teachers are compensated well below the state average. You can try and negate that fact all you want but why? Why would someone want to change the truth? Why do people have a problem admitting that Westford teachers are amongst the lowest compensated in the state? Even the crude example you posted once cleaned up a bit shows about where Westford lands? The only reason I can see for not wanting to admit it is that it makes it harder to argue that they accept less.
Alex Finnegan September 09, 2012 at 07:02 AM
Westford's financial problems, in so much as they exist, are absolutely not on the teachers side of the school systems. But it's the one of the largest groups of town employees ergo the easiest to save any substantial $ so we fabricate reasons as to why it's fair. Facts are, among town employees they are required to have the most schooling, they start at substantially lower pay, and delay top pay (which is also less than many other jobs, even after adjusting) to almost double the time. As a group, overall they are one of the best in the state. The S.C., Super and Principles don't even disagree with that. Police, Fireman, Superintendents, S.C., Town Admin = Heroes. Teachers for whatever reason are leeches that need to cough up the money we don't think they deserve because we don't get what they do. Yet the summers off thing, vacations etc has been around a long time, the reason you don't have it is because you didn't pursue that career...no one to blame but ourselves for that. And unpaid vacation time aside $374 a day for 6 years of school is peanuts. I've never taken so much as a college course and I average much more than that per workday. Many town documents are on line, it's not terribly difficult to find the town workers who are OVER paid when compared to the rest of the state, or what departments are bloated. But we aren't we looking there, instead we're trying to squeeze more out of the schools. THAT is what is unsustainable.
Townie October 02, 2012 at 09:57 AM
Andrew Would still love to see a patch answers piece on ranking teacher pay.... If we are going to jump on the story of Westford Academy is ranked #22 I would like to see where WPS teacher pay ranks (my estimates have out of the top 100 of the 200 schools Boston Mag considered)
Alex Finnegan October 05, 2012 at 12:45 AM
Townie, If you clarify what you are trying to figure out I probably already have all the information and could post it for it. And are you talking about MA only or the entire USA? THe nation gets very tricky because then you have to factor in cost of living. $50k a year in Tennessee is not the same as $50k a year in Massachusetts. Everything is more expensive here, so cost of living adjustments need to be made. Also, Massachusetts is one of only 3 states that requires a Masters degree to be a teacher so that should factor into the equation as well. If you clarify what you are asking (I don't mean to be obtuse I'm really just lost as to what you mean) I probably have already worked out the numbers. Westford gets a pretty bad deal when compared to the rest of the state and fairs badly against the country as a whole as well.) I posted before, the district of Westford ranks in the top 5-10% in MA
Dan C December 27, 2012 at 11:27 AM
Still waiting to see the Patch Answers on where in MA ranking WA is on top paid, my calculations don't even have it in the top 75 despite the fact the school seems to be near the top 20 annually. Hope the school board is ready to treat its teachers fairly at the table next year rather than cry broke and throw them under a bus again. Funny how there was no money but when the budget included new Social Studies and English positions as well as the addition of a armed officer the money can be 'found'
Andrew Sylvia (Editor) December 27, 2012 at 04:28 PM
Hi Dan, I'm at fault on that one. Still slowly getting used to the two-town workload.


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