Pay plan to undergo analysis

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The Steamboat Springs School District is getting an outside opinion on the financial viability of its proposed evaluation-based pay system.

Consultant Doug Rose, vice president of Denver-based Augenblick, Palaich and Associates, will arrive in Steamboat on Jan. 23 to begin an analysis that Superintendent Donna Howell expects will be complete by the beginning of April. Rose brings with him experience in alternative compensation plans for school districts through his work with Denver Public Schools during the development of its pay system.

"He has the financial expertise for Colorado, and that's what we need," Howell said. "He'll be talking to School Board members, the Knowledge and Skills-Based Pay committee, the Steamboat Springs Education Association and (Finance Director Dale) Mellor."

The analysis is needed, Howell said, to make sure the KSBP system, which already has an approved pay scale in place, is affordable for the school district. District teachers and staff are being paid under an interim pay schedule until they and the School Board approve a final KSBP system.

"We cannot propose something to the board where we don't have a clear understanding of the short and long-term financial impact," she said.

Mike Smith, a high school math teacher and an SSEA representative on the KSBP development committee, said five-year cost projections done by Mellor before teachers and the School Board approved KSBP's pay scale showed the system is viable. But, he acknowledged, the financial situation of the district has changed during the past two years.

Still, if voters approved a mill levy override, the system should be affordable, he said.

"I'm reasonably confident that, with (the override), we can afford this for at least five years," Smith said.

Rose may be able to provide the district with other compensation options if he doesn't believe the approved pay scale is affordable, Howell said.

"We've got to have some way we can respond to fluctuations in revenue and at the same time maintain the integrity of a system that differentiates (teacher performance)," Howell said.

A discussion of whether the SSEA would be open to other compensation options hasn't taken place, Howell and Smith said.

A change in the compensation package likely would necessitate a change to the extensive evaluation system the KSBP committee has been developing for the past couple of years, Smith said.

The KSBP system proposes to pay teachers according to their performance on a thorough, objective evaluation that will include portfolios and classroom observations. The system is designed to allow good teachers to earn more money quicker than what's provided under traditional teacher pay schedules. The district also hopes the system will help it attract and retain the best teachers.

"I suppose my biggest concern is whether people will want to go through that sort of extensive evaluation without the high-stakes compensation plan attached to it," Smith said.

Nevertheless, he remains optimistic Rose's analysis will conclude the approved pay schedule is affordable.

"There's so many factors that go into this," Smith said. "I can't speculate what the teachers will do if Rose says we can't afford this. I would assume we'd find a compromise that will attract and retain the best teachers. We'll cross that bridge when we come to it."

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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