W-F School Board also approves other pay raises
By Angie Landsverk
The Weyauwega-Fremont School District intends to curb the “poaching” of its teachers with a new salary grid.
“Poaching” is the word District Administrator Scott Bleck uses to describe the current climate in education and why the district’s school board decided to do something about it.
“Since Act 10, it’s a competitive market,” he said. “It’s a competitive market for all school employees.”
That includes teachers, administrators and support staff, he said.
Those who have certain skill sets may find themselves being recruited by other school districts.
Bleck says this is especially true in the areas of foreign language, special education, math, science and speech pathology, where people with those certifications are often few and far between.
“Recently, with staff turnover and citing salaries as a factor in relocation, the district felt the need to establish a salary model that would be more competitive with the area and the Fox Valley,” he said.
Approved by the school board prior to the end of the 2014-15 school year, the new teacher salary grid goes into effect with the upcoming school year.
A new model
Addressing the turnover of the district’s teaching staff was not only a directive of the school board but a product of the district’s strategic planning process, which took place two years ago.
“We carried out internal surveys,” Bleck said.
The district asked people why they considered employment elsewhere.
“Salary was a reason,” he said.
Bleck said districts have the ability to create their own salary models today.
Business Manager Drew Niehans said the W-F district tweaked a similar model adopted by the Fond du Lac School Board.
That district just completed its first school year with its new model, he said.
“Fond du Lac did three-year levels. They are a little different. They are a bigger staff. I condensed it into a two-year model and changed the dollar limits in between to fit the district,” Niehans said.
Bleck said the model is based on statewide teacher effectiveness accountability through evaluation.
Under the district’s recently approved model, teachers deemed effective or distinguished are recognized with level movement on the salary model, he said.
Bleck said the new grid has two significant elements.
“We’re recognizing new teachers at a higher starting salary,” he said.
Previously, the starting salary for a teacher in the district was about $32,000. Now it is $36,000.
“With annual evaluations of our new hires, there is a pathway for staff to reach $40,000 in four years,” he said. “The purpose is to have new, qualified hires vested into the school community where they see a future and a long-term commitment to the district.”
Niehans said when younger members of a teaching staff are not vested in a district, they are more likely to leave.
With some school districts in the Fox Cities rapidly approaching $40,000 for starting teacher salaries, he said the W-F district wants to get its teachers to that level in a quicker period of time.
With the new grid, levels one through three represent three years of service to the district.
Those three levels comprise the New Educator part of the grid.
New teachers will be evaluated on an annual basis and recognized with movement to the next level and a $1,000 increase, when receiving an effective or distinguished teacher rating, Bleck said.
Those not receiving either rating will remain frozen at their current levels.
The starting salary is $36,000 at Level 1, followed by $37,000 at Level 2 and $38,000 at Level 3.
In addition, new teachers will receive the identified Consumer Price Index or monetary contribution to the grid the school board recognizes on an annual basis.
Level 4 marks the beginning of the Continuing Educator part of the grid.
The base salary at that level is $40,000, which means new teachers may reach that salary in four years.
Bleck said new and continuing teaching staff are evaluated on the following state-recognized teacher effectiveness standards: professional knowledge, instructional planning, instructional delivery, assessment of learning, learning environment and professionalism.
From the fourth year on, W-F’s teachers will be evaluated every other year, with movement on the grid again based on being deemed effective or distinguished.
Movement from one of those levels to the next one will be at $2,000 increments and again, teachers would receive any identified CPI or monetary contribution to the grid recognized by the school board on an annual basis.
Niehans also noted that with Act 10 reducing post-employment benefits, the district’s new grid includes more levels for movement in order to include the appropriate time for staff advancement.
This part of the grid recognizes Level 4 ($40,000) to Level 20 ($72,000), which represents 34 years of service to the district.
“Movement from one level to the next level is not automatic,” Bleck said. “They only advance to the next level with an effective and/or distguished evaluation. Individuals can be frozen at levels.”
In those cases, they would remain at those particular levels until demonstrating they improved their skill sets.
Bleck said the district is making an investment in its teaching staff.
Niehans said the new grid results in an increase of $234,926, or 7.48 percent overall, for teaching salaries.
Under the new grid, the lowest raise a full-time teacher is receiving in the upcoming school year, related to placement on the grid only, is $394.30, while the highest raise is $5,823.30, he said.
Niehans said there were several teachers who had been in the district four or five years and were being paid between $33,000 and $34,000.
“We couldn’t justify keeping them as new teachers, because they aren’t,” he said. “So they were moved to the established side of the grid.”
In addition to the new salary grid, the school board also approved a 0.5 percent CPI increase for all of the district’s teaching staff.
That action took place during the board’s June 29 meeting. Its cost is $16,317.53 and equals a CPI-related raise of $236.49 for each of the district’s almost 70 teachers.
“The district committed just under an 8 percent increase to the professional teaching staff salaries,” Niehans said.
That percentage is arrived at by adding the 7.48 percent increase through the new grid and the 0.5 percent CPI increase.
Bleck said the base salary percentage increases recognized for the teaching staff over the past few years were 1 percent for 2012-13, 1.36 percent for 2013-14 and 1.46 percent for the 2014-15 school year.
During its June 29 meeting, the school board also approved raises for its other groups of employees.
It approved a 20 cent per hour raise plus 5 cents for service years for the district’s hourly support staff. That is a 2.56 percent increase.
The board approved an overall increase of $23,332.75 for the compensation of the district’s five members of the administrative staff.
That equates to a 5.59 percent increase and also includes $5,000 alone for moving Niehans from 95 percent to 100 percent in his position.
For the district’s non-union supervisory and non-union support staff, the board approved an overall increase of $15,337.50 for the salaries of the six people in that category. That is a 6.54 percent increase.
Bleck said the school board is making a commitment to having a competitive salary structure for its teaching staff.
“Now it becomes an annual investment in the budget, to remain competitive in the market,” he said. “This is a success that we’re able to address this topic of salaries to remain competitive, to recruit and retain quality employees to the district for the betterment of school success.”
Niehans said, “It’s more expensive to hire and train than to retain staff.”
Going into the next school year, thus far there is little turnover among the district’s teaching staff.
At the end of the 2014-15 school year, one teacher retired.
That was the district’s at-risk teacher, and it resulted in movement from within the district, when a fifth-grade teacher moved into that open position.
The district then hired a teacher for the fifth-grade spot. It also hired one other elementary teacher due to needs related to the SAGE program.
In addition, the district hired a science teacher for the middle and high schools, and in that case, it is a teacher who is returning to the district after being elsewhere the last couple years.
At this point in the summer, the district needs to hire one more elementary teacher, after a kindergarten teacher resigned.
Bleck said in that case, the teacher is leaving W-F because she has the opportunity to teach in her hometown.