New teacher salary plan proposed for district

System would allow staff members to earn higher pay at a quicker rate

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— The Steamboat Springs School District has developed a new salary scale that, if approved, will radically change the way teachers and school staff are paid.

School administrators hope to have the proposed "multi-year competitive compensation plan" in place for the 2003-04 school year. The Board of Education, teachers and staff will vote on the plan Wednesday and Thursday. Majority votes from all three are required for the plan to be implemented.

The new plan would require teachers to demonstrate specific knowledge and skills to advance in salary. It also would allow teachers to earn higher salaries at a quicker pace than they can under the existing system.

Currently, teachers are compensated on years of experience and education level. The new plan proposes five teacher levels entry, basic, career, master and advanced and allows teachers to move from one level to the next through an evaluation process.

Under the current pay scale, teacher salaries range from $25,926 for an entry-level teacher to a maximum of $58,145 for a teacher with 90 hours of doctoral work and 30 years of experience. Under the proposed plan, the range would be $29,075 for an entry-level teacher to $67,925 for a teacher with five years at the advanced level.

Theoretically, a teacher could reach the first step on the advanced level and earn more than $61,000 in just eight years.

By comparison, the maximum a teacher with eight years of experience can earn under the existing scale is $41,994.

Superintendent Cyndy Simms said paying teachers primarily on the number of years they have been in the district is not entirely fair because longevity is not always a good measure of a teacher's effectiveness. And she said the public wants greater accountability for teachers, something that will be reinforced through the new pay plan.

The plan requires teachers to be evaluated every three years at the career, master and advanced levels. If teachers aren't able to meet the required criteria at the career level, their pay will be frozen. Teachers in the master's and advanced levels will be dropped one level if they fail to meet the criteria in their evaluations.

A subcommittee of the school district's Collaborative Bargaining Team worked with the Chicago-based Center for Workforce Effectiveness to develop the plan.

Last week, the proposal was presented to teachers and staff, some of whom immediately responded favorably.

"It will bring out more teacher leaders in the district and benefit the students overall," said Marty Lamansky, a teacher at Steamboat Springs High School.

He said he is not worried about the new teaching evaluation criteria but thinks it will be a motivating factor for some teachers.

"It's a good step of trying something innovative that we need to do," he said. "The long-range benefits of the new plan are better especially when you look at overall pay."

Lamansky said more competitive teaching salaries are long overdue. He said the new plan should help the district attract and retain staff, something critical in a time of teaching shortages. "It's a teacher's market now," he said.

Tom Keenan, a teacher at Soda Creek Elementary School, said he likes the compensation plan but is concerned about the evaluation criteria that will be used. If the plan is approved, the criteria will be developed over the next year.

"Teachers fear it because of fairness issues," Keenan said. "We are entering into uncharted territory."

Mike Smith, president of the Steamboat Springs Education Association and a member of the team that developed the plan, said it has benefits for teachers in all phases of their careers.

"It's huge," he said. "It is a major change in the way teachers get paid."

In addition to the multi-year competitive pay schedule, the district has designed a new pay scale to transition teachers to the new plan. The salaries under the transitional schedule are structured similar to the existing scale, but they have been increased to be competitive with other school districts. The transitional schedule has a range of $29,075 to $60,273.

If the new plan is approved, the district would use existing teachers' salaries to determine their spots on the proposed competitive pay plan.

Last fall, voters approved Amendment 3A, an adjustment in the school district's cost-of-living formula that allows the district to collect an additional $773,000 in tax revenue for teacher salaries. Simms said those funds will help pay for the new salary plan.

Simms said $475,000 of the $773,000 generated by 3A this year was spent on teacher and staff salaries.

The remainder will be put toward future salaries and benefits in the multi-year plan.

To reach Jamie Hallman call 871-4234

or e-mail newsclerk@steamboatpilot.com

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