Board reviews salary system

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— Every student in Mike Smith's math classes is given the opportunity to earn an A.

But most don't get that top grade.

That's because Smith, a Steamboat Springs High School teacher, sets tough expectations for his sophomore, junior and senior students.

"But they have to know they can make it and will receive (an A) if they meet the expectations," Smith said.

The veteran teacher doesn't see the district's developing Knowledge and Skills-Based Pay system much differently -- every teacher gets the chance to make it the top, but invariably many won't.

The very best teachers will perform exceptionally on KSBP's rigorous evaluation system and will get paid accordingly.

Some teachers won't fare nearly as well and also will be paid accordingly.

Smith's belief that KSBP's demands won't equate to a fast track to top salaries for all district employees is at the heart of the discussion going on within the district about KSBP's affordability.

The School Board, members of the KSBP development committee and other district administrators and teachers discussed the pay and evaluation system extensively at Monday's board meeting. The discussion followed the results of a KSBP financial analysis presented in March that estimated the cost of the system to be an average of $600,000 a year more than the district currently pays for staff's salaries and benefits.

The part of auditor Doug Rose's analysis that no one seems to like is his belief that affordability often goes hand in hand with higher staff turnover.

Like district principals, teachers and others, School Board member Paula Stephenson doesn't want to see higher staff turnover, but she does insist some control mechanism must be in place so that KSBP won't bust the district's budget down the road.

"Turnover at 25 percent is unacceptable, but we are talking about (needing) some sort of control," Stephenson said. "My biggest concern is that we can't have a steady state if everyone's in the highest (salary) category."

Kelly Stanford, content standards director and KSBP committee member, said the system can be developed to achieve long-term affordability if the School Board commits to finding the $600,000 a year needed during the implementation phase.

"If $600,000 is affordable then I think we can put in the time and energy to get to that steady state," Stanford said.

But until the development committee knows where the School Board stands on KSBP, its members don't want to continue to dedicate the time to work on the evaluation system.

"We need direction before we know which way we can go and continue with our work," Stanford said.

That direction wasn't provided at Monday's meeting, but Stephenson and others said they never thought it would be a one-night discussion.

And the discussion involves more than KSBP's affordability. School Board member Pat Gleason is adamant about tying student accountability -- how well students do on assessment tests -- into the system. KSBP committee members such as teacher Celia Dunham said the system does use some student accountability, and that the lack of reliable assessments in all content areas means student accountability couldn't be fully integrated into the system for many years.

The School Board plans to further discuss KSBP and its future at its April 12 meeting.

In other news, Pat Dickson and John Murdoch of Phi Delta Kappa International presented an overview of the curriculum management audit the district is undergoing. The audit, which will determine how well the district delivers instruction to its students, will be completed by June. Dickson and Murdoch are in Steamboat today and Wednesday and have many slots available for community member and individual staff interviews. To schedule a short interview or discussion with Dickson or Murdoch, call the district's central office at 879-1530.

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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