Recruiting and retaining high-caliber faculty and staff
SCSD9 trustees support proposed salary increases
BIG PINEY – Sublette County School District No. 9 (SCSD9) trustees took the first steps toward making teacher and staff salaries competitive with surrounding districts in order to attract and retain top-notch employees.
A unanimous motion passed at the June 20 board meeting to approve recommendations from the Budget Deliberation Committee to increase pay for faculty, staff and substitute teachers. The Budget Deliberation Committee, consisting of representatives from both certified and classified personnel and the SCSD9 board, met in May to discuss changes to the district’s compensation package, said Amy Anschutz, SCSD9 chief financial officer.
The proposed pay raises will not go into effect until trustees approves the final budget for the 2023-2024 academic year at its July 18 meeting, Anschutz confirmed.
The initiative to boost salaries and benefits is part of the district’s new strategic plan, said Superintendent Dr. Charles Jenks. Among the strategic plan’s three priorities is recruiting and retaining quality staff, Jenks continued.
One solution is to offer a salary and benefit package that is competitive with other districts throughout the region – from Star Valley to the Bridger Valley, Jenks stated.
“This is not an easy time to be in education,” Jenks told the Examiner. “Schools nationwide are struggling to recruit and retain quality staff. We want to ensure that we take care of our staff from a financial standpoint.”
While each employee at SCSD9, from summer student employees to administrators, will see a raise pending approval of the final budget, the salary increases are not uniformly proportional across the board.
The largest salary increases will go to certain “critical positions” – entry-level teachers, special education aides, food service workers and substitute teachers – that prove especially difficult to recruit and keep in the district, Jenks explained. Pay rates for these positions also tended to lag behind neighboring districts, he added.
Incentives for new teachers
Under SCSD9’s proposal, the salary for a recently graduated teacher with a bachelor’s degree will increase from $43,446 to $50,000, or 15-percent, bringing the base pay for new teachers more in line with regional competitors.
“We are seeing lots of younger candidates applying for jobs,” said Jenks. “We want to recruit individuals out of college and get them to stay here in Big Piney. If you go to a job fair, it is difficult to recruit candidates if the table next to you is offering a base pay of $6,000 to $7,000 more.”
Graduates from the University of Wyoming’s College of Education – a primary source for recruits – are typically “swallowed up quickly” by larger school districts closer to the university in Cheyenne and Laramie, said Jenks. As a result, greater incentives are needed to attract new teachers to rural Big Piney, Jenks continued.
Longtime teachers with higher education credentials will receive a raise, though at a lower rate than the 15-percent boost for entry-level teaching salaries.
The district felt comfortable that salaries for teachers at the higher end of the pay schedule already aligned well with competing districts, faring much better than salaries at the lower end, Jenks said. Increasing all teacher’s salaries by 15 percent is “not financially possible” for SCSD9, Jenks added.
All administrative positions in the district received a flat raise of $1,000, an addition of between less than 1 percent to 1.8 percent of the administrative pay scale from top to bottom.
Classified staff and substitutes
Pay rates for classified staff, including office administrators, teacher’s aides, bus drivers, mechanics, maintenance workers, custodians and lifeguards, will see a raise of 50 cents per hour. Trustees approved an initial $5.00 hourly raise for bus drivers to address severe shortages in January 2022.
Two classified categories, special education aides and food service workers – both considered areas of particular need for the district – will receive an hourly boost of $1.
The district’s proposal also includes a substantial uptick in wages for substitute teachers. Under the current pay scale, substitutes with a four-year degree earn $105 per day while those without a 4-year degree gross $100 per day.
With the new pay scale, all substitute teachers will make a daily wage of $120, regardless of education and qualifications, an increase of between 14 and 20 percent.
Salaries for substitute teachers at SCSD9 were noticeably lower than in surrounding districts, said Jenks, making them a “priority” for a pay boost.
“Substitute teachers are crucial to the day-to-day operations of our schools,” Jenks remarked.
The Budget Deliberation Committee recommended that premiums for medical insurance remain “static” with no increases for district staff in 2024. SCSD9 also intends to fully cover a 3.5-percent increase in dental insurance premiums for all employees.