The Douglas County School Board is prioritizing compensating employees for what its members call the “inequity and unfairness” caused by reforms enacted by previous board members.
At a June 5 meeting, six board members — Kevin Leung was absent — unanimously voted to enact one of five options for pay raises provided by district staff. In the 2019-20 school year, licensed employees, including teachers and administrators, will receive a 2 percent raise for each year of a pay freeze they experienced.
In addition to the 2 percent raise, licensed employees and administrators on the district's performance evaluation systems will receive a 3.2 percent flat raise. All other employee groups will receive evaluation-based raises.
“I think what we want to do as a board is symbolically say we recognize that we have some employees that are hurting,” school board President David Ray said at the meeting in Castle Rock. “Our messed-up way of compensating over the last few years has created disparity, has hurt morale.”
District salaries were frozen from 2009-12 because of budget shortages. In 2009, county residents elected school board members who would vote for numerous reform policies over the next several years.
The school board hired Elizabeth Fagen as superintendent in 2010, and two years later, the district introduced a market-based pay system, which 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.
Last September, 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.
After eight years of an often-controversial majority of reform-minded board members, 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.
“One of the reasons I asked to do this volunteer job is because the district hasn't valued teachers,” said board member Krista Holtzmann. “Compensation hasn't been sufficient.”
The pay-raise option approved by board members addresses the concern that licensed employees hired after the pay freeze are making more money than licensed employees who started before or during the pay freeze.
About 3,122 employees experienced part of the pay freeze, according to Steve Collela, chief human resources officer at the district. Of those, 1,531 were licensed employees. Providing a 2 percent pay raise to licensed employees would cost the district approximately $4.8 million, according to Colella's presentation at the board meeting.
The new pay system grants evaluation-based raises to all other employee groups, including classified positions, like food service workers, bus drivers and secretaries. Individuals rated “highly effective” will get a 3.2 percent raise; those rated “effective” will get a 2.8 percent raise; and those rated “partially effective” will get a 0.75 percent raise.
“The other thing I like about option 5 is that certainly there is a piece that recognizes who is highly effective and performing well,” said board member Anthony Graziano. “Ideally, this shows the kind of direction we would like to head as a group, as a board.”
Classified employee Les Lilly, who has worked for the district as a bus driver for 36 years, was disappointed with the board's decision. He thinks granting licensed employees who experienced the pay freeze a 2 percent raise is unfair. He suggests the board give all employees who experienced the pay freeze a 1 percent raise, and another 1 percent raise if a tax measure is put on the ballot and approved this fall.
"It's cohesiveness, it's working together as a team," Lilly said. "So treat us as a team."
District staff recommended the board choose option 1, which outlines a 4.6 percent flat raise for licensed employees and administrators who are rated using evaluation tools. All other employee groups would receive evaluation-based raises.
Interim Superintendent Erin Kane pointed out that the recommendation would only be applicable for the upcoming school year.
“This is not a restructure of how pay works in Douglas County schools,” said Kane. “This is only next year's pay raise. The restructuring will be at the hands of the board and the new superintendent.”
The new superintendent will be Thomas Tucker, the current superintendent of Princeton City Schools in Cincinnati, Ohio. His five-year term will begin on July 1.
Ray argued that option 1 did not consider the employees who endured the pay freeze.
The school board is “looking at the people who have been hit the hardest,” he said.
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