School Board discusses salary schedule changes for school employees

Published 3:33 am Saturday, December 17, 2022

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LAPLACE — A discussion regarding salary schedule changes for nurses, counselors, assistant principals and bus drivers in St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools ended with the item being tabled due to concerns over long-term sustainability of pay increases.

Chief Financial Officer Jawanza Joseph presented a series of proposed changes approved by the Finance Committee on November 1 and revised during the December 6 meeting. The proposed changes, according to Joseph, are part of ongoing efforts to provide equitable salaries to district personnel.

Salary revisions began in July 2022 when the St. John Parish School Board approved a $3,000 raise for all certified and non-certified teachers, as well as a 3% raise for all other district personnel at a minimum of $1,000 and a maximum of $2,000. These previously approved raises, which will cost the district $2.1 million, have not yet been factored into the budget.

The Salary Study Committee now proposes that nurses and counselors receive a $3,000 raise, in line with the amount received by teachers, rather than the modified 3% raise capped at $2,000.

The next category of proposed changes involved assistant principals. The Salary Study Committee recommends the step level increases from four years to 25 years with an additional in $308 for each increase beyond step four. This would increase the maximum salary for assistant principals from approximately $73,000 to approximately $80,000 a year.

Meanwhile, it was proposed that the pay scale for bus drivers be modified to reach a maximum salary amount of $29,111. The current maximum amount is $25,296.

If the revisions were approved, it would bring the total salary schedule costs that need to be added to the budget from $2.1 million to $2.6 million. This includes required effectiveness pay at a proposed amount of $300 for teachers who receive a rating of emerging, $450 for a rating of proficient and $750 for a “highly effective” rating. Joseph stated that other districts pay up to $500 for proficient and $1,000 for highly effective ratings, respectively.

Salary schedule changes would be retroactive to 2022, when the initial raises went into effect.

School Board member Ali Burl cautioned against putting the district into a position of not having enough funds to cover increased salaries. He said it’s important to take into account that MFP funding is decreasing along with decreases in student enrollment in recent years.

“We need to make sure we have the money in the bank before we start writing checks,” Burl said.

“I’m a little concerned as well with the sustainability of it all,” School Board member Charo Bossier-Holden said. “I think initially, our motive as a salary study committee was to attract certified teachers to this area and remain competitive with neighboring parishes. Because of that, we focused on teachers’ pay. I understood that totally, and that’s why I was in accordance and agreed with it. Every area needs to be looked at, but I don’t think the priority is there right now.”

Bossier-Holden suggested bringing in a consultant at some point to take a thorough look at the salary schedule.

Board member Debbie Schum, who is a member of the Salary Study Committee, had a different viewpoint. She said the proposed revisions target areas where the school district has had difficulty filling positions.

“Since July, we have had six meetings and spent over 40 hours on this, with the last meeting taking place on November 28. The purpose is to take a look at our salary schedules, determine where we are in reference to other districts and to make sure our salary schedules were competitive,” Schum said. “In most cases, our salary schedule is better than in surrounding districts, but in these cases, they are not.”

According to Schum, a detailed review of neighboring districts’ salary schedules revealed nurses are typically paid the same as teachers.

“When we didn’t make the raise the same as teachers, now our salaries don’t match up to surrounding districts,” she said. “Regardless of whether this gets approved, you already have to find room in the budget for the $2.1 million and the required effectiveness pay. We’re only talking about an additional $230,000 to make it right.”

Interim Superintendent Rebecca Johnson said she agreed with the revisions in some areas but was concerned with the changes to nurses’ and counselors’ salaries and the potential trickle down effect it could have within the district.

The item was tabled with nine yeas and two board members absent.