Finance committee considers raises for public school employees

Published 12:04 am Saturday, June 11, 2022

RESERVE — Raises could be on the horizon for St. John the Baptist Parish Public School System employees as the School Board seeks to keep pay competitive with neighboring districts.

During a meeting Wednesday evening in Reserve, the Finance Committee weighed the cost of a $500 or $1,000 one-time raise, in addition to the cost for 3% or 5% permanent raises. Decisions have not yet been made, and the options will be further examined by the salary study committee.

Thus far, the School Board has approved a one-time $500 raise for full-time employees in November 2022, pending approval by the Board of Education. This one-time raise would cost approximately $552,000 and would come out ESSER funding awarded during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The $500 or $1,000 one-time raise under consideration would be in addition to the $500 that has already been approved. Finance Committee member Jawanza Joseph suggested the second one-time payment be made in April 2023.

School Board member Debbie Schum suggested awarding two separate $500 raises in the fall and an additional $500 raise in the spring to attract new employees to the district in advance of the 2022-2023 academic year.

She pointed out that the neighboring St. Charles Parish School District recently posted Facebook ads attracting teachers with a $2,000 sign on bonus. Last month, the St. Charles Parish School Board made headlines with the approval of a 10% raise for all full-time and part-time public school employees, in addition to two one-time loyalty/recruitment payments.

“We need to do something,” Schum said. “If we don’t do something, we are going to be at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to filling these 50 vacancies.”

Schum also asked about using sales tax revenue to fund teacher raises. Joseph cautioned against it, saying “While we have an excess in sales tax, we have a deficit in MFP funds. You’re giving and taking in certain areas.”

The Finance Committee also discussed a permanent percentage raise for employees. Derron Cook, who was recently elected president of the St. John Teachers’ Union, said a 3% or 5% raise across the board draws concerns about equity.

“When you look at percentages, folks at the bottom of the totem pole don’t get much, and the people already at the top continue to make more,” Cook said. “I hate to say it, but we have a lot of feedback where employees feel they are getting the short end of the stick compared to Central Office.”

Schum agreed that there may need to be stipulations on the minimum and maximum amount of money an individual could receive but reiterated that the percentage raise is the best way to keep it fair across the board.

Board member Charo Holden noted that layers must exist in any organization or business.

“It’s kind of a motivating factor,” Holden said. “People should be striving to obtain their certifications so they can be at the next level.”

Joseph said it’s important to consider the intent behind the raise.

“If the purpose is to retain or attract people, I think it would be more impactful if we targeted certain areas. Speaking for myself, I don’t need a raise. It’s not going to be as impactful to me as it would for teachers and bus drivers, which are hard to staff areas,” Joseph said. “If we are just going to do it across the board, I don’t think that would have the most impact.”

The percentage raise will be discussed further at the salary study committee meeting scheduled for 4 p.m. Monday, June 13 at the Godchaux Grammar cafeteria in Reserve.