In an effort to retain staff, the Douglas County school board seems likely to approve roughly $3.4 million in short-term benefits for teachers and others, such as bonuses, an extra personal day and …
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In an effort to retain staff, the Douglas County school board seems likely to approve roughly $3.4 million in short-term benefits in the form of bonuses, an extra personal day and tuition reimbursement for professional development.
At the Jan. 10 board work session, Superintendent Erin Kane and Director of HR Amanda Thompson presented a number of ideas to support staff this year and in the next school year. The district had hoped to be able to increase salaries across the board by passing a mill levy override in November, but voters rejected the measure.
While the school board is leaning toward returning to voters in 2023 for the money to compensate staff more competitively, Kane said the proposed short-term benefits will be crucial to retaining employees.
“The reason we need to do all of these things … is because we can’t pay competitively,” Kane said. “We want to make sure our employees hear that we value you, we appreciate you, we are doing every creative thing we can to get every dollar we can to make your workplace as happy as it can be and make you feel appreciated and to take care of you financially to the extent we are able.”
Kane emphasized that the district is able to provide the benefits using one-time funding available from the savings due to staff vacancies and being unable to hire employees. The district's job portal shows more than 300 open positions for external candidates.
Kane added that it doesn’t negate the need for voters to approve a future mill levy override to increase pay.
“Truly because of the labor shortage and because we can’t fill our positions, we have a significant amount of vacancy savings,” she said. “None of these things is going to close the $18,000 average teacher salary gap that we have.”
The suggested benefits include a $2,000 bonus for full-time employees, one additional personal day, a guarantee that health premiums will not increase next year, tuition reimbursement for professional development and a budget for schools to promote team-building.
On top of those, Kane said all staff would receive a “modest” base pay increase with the additional funding the district is getting from the state this year.
“We know we have new state revenue coming in due to inflation and we will be able to give modest ongoing pay increases, but so will every other school district, so it won’t help us close the gap,” she said.
The district also hopes to partner with local health providers to offer staff easy access to wellness screenings and encourage schools to protect teacher planning time and offer flexibility on teacher work days.
School board members were unanimously in favor of the proposed benefits, with plans to officially approve them on Jan. 24.
“There are so many things in here that I love,” board member David Ray said. “I especially love that we’re talking about this now. As Superintendent Kane said, it really provides some certainty for people as we head into hiring season, for them to see that we’re making a really good effort to do everything we can to hold onto them.”
Later in the meeting, Stone Mountain Elementary teacher Brooke Vincent shared her appreciation of the suggested plan.
“I’m not going to let this moment pass without thanking you for recognizing the importance of retaining teachers,” Vincent said. “I just need you to hear how valuable that is for the people that work day in and day out for the district.”
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