Give the Steamboat Springs School District credit for creativity it has proposed a salary plan that is far unlike anything most school districts have ever seen.
The school board, teachers and district staff will vote on the so-called "multi-year competitive compensation plan" today and Thursday. If approved, the plan will be implemented in the 2003-2004 school year.
We think the plan should be approved.
First, the plan significantly improves teacher pay, which voters mandated last fall when they approved Amendment 3A. The amendment allows the district to raise about $773,000 in additional tax revenue to support cost of living increases for teachers.
Currently, teacher salaries range from $25,926 to $58,326. Under the proposal, the range would be $29,075 to $67,925.
The new salary range is based upon comparisons with 11 school districts, including those comparable in size as well as districts that are among the top performing in the state.
Steamboat has seen a number of teachers come and go in recent years as teachers have found it difficult to live and work on their teaching salaries in a district with one of the state's highest costs of living. With a nationwide teaching shortage, school districts have lured some teachers away with signing bonuses, housing allowances and similar perks.
Increasing pay should help the district stop the revolving door of teachers.
While we support the salary increase, what's more impressive about the new plan is that it holds teachers accountable for earning pay increases.
Under the current system, a teacher's effectiveness does not matter nearly as much as how long he or she has taught in the district.
The multi-year competitive compensation plan scraps that model in favor of one that requires teachers to demonstrate specific knowledge and skills in order to earn more money. The best teachers can maximize pay and benefits in half the time it would take them under the traditional model. And ineffective teachers can no longer count on a pay raise just for making it through another year.
The plan gives teachers the opportunity to move through five levels entry, basic, career, master and advanced through a rigorous evaluation process. A teacher has one year to move from the entry level to the basic level or leave the district. Likewise, teachers must advance from the basic to the career level in two years or be dismissed.
Teachers at the career level will be evaluated every three years. If they fail to meet the necessary criteria, their salaries will be frozen. Those at the master and advanced levels will also be evaluated every three years. Should they fail, they can be dropped one level and see their pay decrease.
It's important to pay teachers well, but it is also important to make sure taxpayers are getting a return on their investment. The multi-year competitive compensation plan does both and should be approved.