Teachers, classified employees will receive raises in January

Bond, MLO measure approvals pave way for raises for most school employees

Posted 11/16/18

After years of budget cuts and pay freezes, all Douglas County School District employees — excluding cabinet members and the superintendent — will receive highly anticipated salary raises on …

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Teachers, classified employees will receive raises in January

Bond, MLO measure approvals pave way for raises for most school employees

Posted

After years of budget cuts and pay freezes, all Douglas County School District employees — excluding cabinet members and the superintendent — will receive highly anticipated salary raises on their January paychecks.

“It took a lot of thought to come up with this,” Mary Chesla, director of compensation at Douglas County School District, said at a Nov. 13 school board meeting. “We think this is as equitable as we can get with $14 million.”

The seven-member school board voted unanimously to approve a recommendation from district staff on compensation adjustments for licensed teachers, administrators and professional technicians, as well as classified employees, such as bus drivers and teachers’ aides.

The decision comes a week after Douglas County voters passed Ballot Measure 5A, a $40 million mill levy override that will go toward teacher pay and programming. Also approved was Ballot Measure 5B, a $250 million bond that will address urgent building needs, new construction, transportation, career and technical education and security.

Of the million mill levy override, $14 million will go toward staff salaries and $3 million toward benefits, according to district staff.

District staff formulated their recommendation using results of a survey sent out the week of the election, in which 56 percent of licensed and classified employees participated. The majority of respondents indicated that addressing internal and external pay gaps was very or somewhat important.

‘A step in the right direction’

Classified employees in hard-to-fill positions — including bus drivers, transportation education assistants, educational assistants, health assistants, preschool instructors, custodians, night building engineers, elementary building engineers, custodians and trade positions — will receive a raise of between 10 percent and 20 percent, depending on the position, according to Chesla. All other classified employees will receive a 5 percent general increase.

Shari Hurt, a classified employee who trains bus drivers, supports the compensation adjustments. In recent years, she said, she’s seen the impact of low salaries on her pool of bus drivers and the attitudes of fellow employees. When she started at the district 19 years ago, people were happier, she said.

“I think this is a step in the right direction,” Hurt said. “I think the school board is trying very hard to show that they can be trusted.”

In addition, classified employees who worked during the three-year pay freeze period will receive a 1.5 percent raise for each year of the freeze they experienced, based on their current salary. Salaries were frozen from the 2008-09 school year to the 2010-11 school year due to budget cuts.

That raise is comparable to a raise that licensed teachers received in the spring, which was 2 percent for each year of the pay freeze, based on their salary at the time of the pay freeze. Licensed teachers also received a flat raise of 3.2 percent at that time.

Raises proportionate to pay range

Per the district’s recommendation, licensed teachers will receive raises in a tiered approach up to 6 percent. The raises will be proportionate to where a teacher’s pay falls in his or her position’s pay range. That means the lower a teacher is in the pay range, the higher his or her raise will be. Teachers can view their pay range at https://tinyurl.com/ycssg4bo. Chesla directs specific questions to teachers’ supervisors.

The district’s pay bands are still in place, which put teachers into five salary tiers based on hard-to-fill positions and credentials.

School-based administrators, such as principals, and professional technical employees will receive a general increase of 3.5 percent, and a 1.5 percent raise for each year of the pay freeze they experienced, based on their current pay.

Employees should receive a lump-sum payment in January that makes up for the 2018-19 school year to date, Chesla said. New salaries are expected to take effect in February.

Board members and district staff said they recognize that not all employees will be satisfied with the compensation adjustments. To fully rectify the situation will take time, they say.

Salaries have been a controversial topic since 2012, when former Superintendent Elizabeth Fagen introduced a market-based pay system that determined teacher pay by education, experience and skill, as well as by the supply and demand of the position.

In addition, raises were offered yearly based on effectiveness ratings ranging from highly effective to ineffective rather than on tenure and level of education. Many community members said the evaluation and salary systems spurred an exodus of quality educators.

In September 2017, the school board voted to suspend the differentiated pay structure for licensed teachers and administrators, replacing it for one year with uniform pay raises while it reassessed the pay structure systems.

Voters elected four new members to the Douglas County School Board last November. The new school board made a commitment to address teacher retention and teacher pay.

“I would ask our employees to be thankful of this and to be understanding of it,” board member Anne-Marie Lemieux said of the compensation adjustments.

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