By Ben Rodgers
SUAMICO – The school board learned that teachers in the district are underpaid at Monday’s Nov. 27 meeting.
The information came as part of a presentation on compensation monitoring by Matt Spets, assistant superintendent of operations.
“About 299 teachers are underpaid based on local market analysis,” Spets said. “The total amount needed to level up to the average is over $1 million.”
The average differential per teacher to the area average is $3,561.
The district is in the last year of using a pay scale called Ascend. A new pay scale, with different tools for increased pay will be implemented next school year.
While the average is more than $3,500, a number of teachers do have larger gaps to get to the average.
One tool to combat this in the new pay scale will be an incentive based on how many years of service a teacher has in the district.
“We have some people that are substantial, their differential is substantial, and that’s where we went with the foundation of using those local years to chop away from that,” Spets said.
Three educators from a committee that looked at compensation monitoring attended the meeting and gave their insights.
Luc Richards, a business education teacher at Bay Port, said educators feel better with the new system moving forward.
“I’ve heard a lot of people say a lot of positive things about their feelings going forward,” Richards said.
Chris Miller, a sixth grade social studies teacher at Lineville Intermediate School has 18 years experience in the district.
Miller explained advancement was difficult in the old system and that it fostered competition among teachers instead of cooperation.
“It didn’t come across from the teachers that talked to me as a system that really brought us together and one that was truly understandable,” he said.
Miller also said the highest pay grade was only attainable for work done outside the classroom, a requirement that may not be able to be met by every educator.
“The ultimate goal in Ascend was to get to district level and to be there you had to be outside of the classroom,” he said. “It was almost rewarding teachers who spent more time out of the classroom then in it.”
Becky Zimmer, Meadowbrook Elementary School principal, agreed.
“I have a lot of good teachers who are just good teachers in the classroom, and depending on life circumstances they don’t have the time to spend extra time outside to do these other things that can help get you to Ascend,” Zimmer said.
A list provided at the meeting from “Business News,” October 2017, showed HSSD average educator salary doesn’t crack the top 30 districts in northeast Wisconsin when it comes to pay.
However, moving forward the district has implemented some tools to better compensate teachers that aren’t pay based.
Those include the establishment of a health savings account, paid time off, and short term disability among other things.
But the need to increase wages remains if the district wants to retain and recruit teachers who could easily go to another nearby district and earn thousands of dollars more.
“No matter how you look at the data, the data is the data, and it’s supportive of our reality,” Spets said.
There is a real fear among administration that established teachers in the district move to greener pastures for more pay.
“My biggest challenge is now being able to retain somebody that you know is great for kids, that you’ve invested in, and now what do you do?” said Mark Smith assistant superintendent of learning. “Opportunities are there and certainly you guys know there are some challenges right before us as well.”
After the presentation the school board discussed the early stages of planning for a referendum in April of 2018.