May 14 – Maintaining wage increases implemented in other counties creates a competitive challenge for Wilson County Schools (WCS) to retain employees.
On Monday, the Wilson County School Board plans to vote on a new compensation plan that it hopes will improve the attractiveness of working for the school district. It will establish a new salary scale, as well as a $500 salary increase for all educators this year, and can be implemented within the current school system budget.
The plan deviates from the current merit-based salary increase scale, but school board member Carrie Pfeiffer said she believes it will make it easier to hire new teachers for the school system by establishing a salary scale commensurate with their level of education and experience.
For example, in the new plan, a new recruit with a bachelor’s degree would start earning $41,500 per year, compared to someone with a master’s degree who would start earning $44,600. These numbers are based on 200-day contracts, which is the standard contract length for regular educators.
Other contract lengths start at 220 days, which would include teachers who might run a club or organization like Future Farmers of America, which requires extra days each year between state competitions and maintaining things in class on non-school days. 240-day contracts are held by positions like assistant administrators, while directors and some central office staff sign 260-day contracts.
Like other county departments, WCS explored ways to maintain positions competitive with surrounding counties and neighboring school districts. One element of the old salary structure, a Level of Efficiency (LOE) scale, had been influential in shaping salary increases.
Based on a series of metrics, including test scores, educators were rewarded with a pay rise. An LOE of 5 would result in an increase of $1,100 per year.
Pfeiffer mentioned that while it’s important to recognize teachers who achieve results, such a system could negatively impact educators in areas that don’t have standardized tests. Since, by default, the system would aggregate the performance of these teachers with the whole school, some members of the profession might be rewarded or embarrassed based on something they hadn’t actually done.
Pfeiffer mentioned that it also doesn’t help with hiring new teachers, an issue hampering the district. His concerns about this system reflect the challenges faced by incoming teachers who would not benefit from the increases associated with an LOE score of 5.
“I’m very concerned about inexperienced teachers who aren’t likely to score high but who we need to retain in the profession long enough to become excellent teachers,” Pfeiffer said. “While I don’t think merit pay is bad or bad, it’s also not a financial model that can help us meet our teaching needs. As we struggle to recruit new teachers into district, we need to make significant changes to our base – rate of pay and merit pay don’t do that.”
The new compensation structure is intended to bring Wilson County educators to a competitive market level that the school system has sought to quantify. While every WCS educator would see a $500 raise this year, further raises might not be around the corner for the county’s top earners.
“People who don’t see a big raise on the pay scale don’t get it because they’re already paid at or above what’s considered the teacher market,” Pfeiffer said. “There are people, over the past few years, who may not have applied or taken jobs elsewhere because the entry salary is not competitive with other counties.”
Pfeiffer is optimistic that the new plan will resolve that disparity.
“I think we need to value all of our teachers more, and I think we’re moving in the right direction with this plan,” Pfeiffer said.
Pfeiffer isn’t alone in knowing how the plan should improve the working lives of educators in the system.
“I’m very confident this is a win for our teachers,” said Bill Robinson, Wilson County School Board member for Zone 4. “Everyone is going to get a raise. We have a great group of teachers, and I want to keep every single one of them.”
Like Pfeiffer, Robinson hopes continued growth in the county will generate revenue that will make future increases possible for teachers who get the maximum.
“Not everyone is guaranteed to get a raise after this year (in the plan), but I think we can address those issues as we move forward,” Robinson said.
The Wilson County School Board will hold a special meeting at the WCS Administration and Training Complex, located at 415 Harding Drive in Lebanon, Monday at 5:30 p.m. to vote on implementing the new compensation plan.