Union R-XI teachers and staff might see pay raises for the next school year, but in the meantime board of education members froze wages at the current year’s level.
Board member Virgil Weideman said a review of staff salaries by the board’s salary committee — made up of Weideman and board members Teresa Connelly and Ron Sohn — found that the district is near the top in the area when it comes to wages for noncertified staff and administrators, but is lacking behind when it comes to teachers’ pay.
“We’re woefully behind in a lot of areas,” Weideman said. “We’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Superintendent Steve Bryant said administrators are calculating the cost of providing all staff with a step increase on the currently established salary schedule for next year.
He offered no deadline for having the figures, but said he would know more within a week.
“This is going to be a process,” Sohn said. “No one can simply expect large sums of money to come their way all of a sudden.”
For teachers within the district with less than a decade of experience, that means a roughly $600-700 pay increase per year.
For support staff, a step increase would mean an additional 25 cents an hour.
Teachers in the district currently start at $31,000 a year with no prior experience and only a bachelor’s degree.
Teachers making the least would therefore see a roughly 2 percent pay raise.
Teachers at the bottom of the pay scale in the Washington School District start at $32,950 a year, according to the district’s website. Sullivan teachers start at $33,743 a year.
Weideman said as the district works to offer more competitive teacher wages, it also could reconsider the structure of its existing salary schedule.
Currently the district’s schedule includes lengthy pay steps for those with only bachelor’s degrees, but the state requires new teachers to obtain their master’s degrees within 10 years of becoming certified, or else they lose their certification, he said.
Weideman said other districts in the area also offer more steps for those continuing their education, such as a scale for those with a bachelor’s degree plus eight hours toward their master’s, and additional scales for those with a bachelor’s plus 16 hours and a bachelor’s plus 24.
Union currently only has a bachelor’s degree plus 15 hours step for those between a bachelor’s and a master’s.
“We need to start the conversations so hopefully we’ll be able to get up to No. 1 or 2 at a relatively quick speed,” Weideman said.
Sohn said having quality teachers is about more than just paying them more, however.
“We need to budget carefully and be careful in our hiring process so we cannot only be at the top in salary, but also in the quality of our staff,” he said.
Sohn said the district currently has quality staff, including teachers and administrators.
Board members agreed to freeze current staff wages for the 2012-13 school year at the current levels, pending the completion of the administration’s review.
“This is a normal process,” Bryant said. “It by no means indicates we’re freezing wages for the entire year.”
The final determination on wages will likely come in June, when the board finalizes its budget for the 2012-13 school year.