School board approves salary package

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— Despite flurries of dissent, the school board approved a salary and benefits package drafted by a diverse Collective Bargaining Team with pledges to continue working on "creative" solutions to the district's salary woes.
The CBT package included an average of a 2.25 percent "step" increase for teachers and an average of a 4 percent increase for support staff. Each teacher and staff member will rise a step with another year of experience and can also earn higher steps through pursuing continued education. The step raise in Steamboat, unlike in some other districts, is not guaranteed.
Many of the teachers in the Steamboat Springs Education Association, however, have expressed their discontent to the union over the lack of a more substantial raise, said SSEA Co-President Sue MacCarthy. The CBT will go back to the drawing board in January.
"Once again this year you are balancing the budget on the back of the teachers in the district, asking us to accept a pay cut of greater than 1 percent," said Nathaniel Cooper, a chemistry and physics teacher at Steamboat Springs High School.
Cooper based his calculations of a 1 percent loss on projected inflation rates for Colorado for the end of this year. Inflation rates are calculated using the Consumer Price Index. The actual Colorado CPI for the first half of the year rose 3.1 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Cooper, a five-year veteran of the district, said he has had to take on a second job to meet his expenses.
School Board President Dan Birch said the school district does not have access to a "pot of money" and, though it has been attempting to nail down some long-term pay-plan policies, raises are not guaranteed.
He said the school district, which received only a 2.8 percent increase this year over last year in funding, was unable to increase salaries by a more significant amount.
Principal John DeVincentis of Strawberry Park Elementary said the teachers in his school have expressed their discontent about the salary structure.
"You have a lot of teachers out here now who are very upset," he said. "By not addressing this issue, you have a chance of igniting something in the district."
DeVincentis also discussed the pay-for-performance aspect of the package, which he said teachers in his school dislike.
The board was receptive to the comments and agreed to continue working on the salary issue, but did not guarantee any further raises.
The bottom line for some of the attendees, however, was quite apparent by the end of the meeting.
"We're working harder and getting better results, but receiving lower compensation," Cooper said.

To reach Avi Salzman call 871-4203 or e-mail asalzman@amigo.net

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