Behind the headlines: What’s going on with KSBP? | SteamboatToday.com

Behind the headlines: What’s going on with KSBP?

Paula Stephenson is the president of the Steamboat Springs School Board. Here, she answers questions about the Knowledge- and Skills-Based Pay system.

Q. Why was the financial analysis of the KSBP system conducted this year instead of earlier in the development of the system?

A. When the Board of Education first approved the parameters for a multiyear pay plan, one of the considerations was that the plan be “consistent with district fiscal integrity.” However, to fully analyze the plan against that requisite, we first had to have a comprehensive outline in place. This September, it became obvious that the plan had developed enough to raise significant concerns from board members about its long-term viability. Instead of simply throwing out potential solutions, the board decided that the time was right to have a professional analyze the fiscal integrity of the system before the district moved any further along in the process.

Q. Based on the results of the analysis, is KSBP affordable? Will it need to take on a different structure, such as the structure of the recently approved Denver Public Schools performance pay system, to be affordable? If so, how important is it to honor the hundreds of hours of work put into KSBP by a committee of teachers and administrators?

A. Based on the results of the Augenblick, Palaich and Associates audit, I think that a KSBP plan is attainable. The system the KSBP group has created is well designed and practicable, and the group should be commended for their efforts. The ultimate form the pay system takes may have to change slightly to include a student outcome component, such as the one implemented by the Denver Public Schools, but this will not affect the affordability of the plan.

Q. Quotas limiting the number of teachers or support staff who can be at certain levels of the pay scale are something most district staff are adamantly opposed to. Can the School Board be confident in a system that does not limit how many employees can reach the highest pay levels? Do you think a stringent evaluation system that does not include quotas or limits will provide that confidence?

A. This is a real area of concern for the board. Some type of control mechanism must be in place in order to have a pay plan that ensures the projected costs. That can be done in several ways: turn- over, job differentiation, increased responsibility, and greater accountability are but a few. Stringent evaluations also should be a tool that is employed, but a great deal of work must first be done to create an evaluation system that ensures consistency of ratings in all categories. A system can be designed that naturally will limit the number of people who are paid out at the highest levels, but the current KSBP system is not there yet.

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Q. School Board member Pat Gleason last week expressed his desire to tie student achievement/accountability to KSBP. Is that feasible for the district? What will it take to tie in student accountability, which was previously addressed through the now-defunct pay for performance bonus system?

A. At this point, the district may not have the ability to put in place a component that ties accountability to student outcomes because we are lacking the necessary evaluation systems for all content areas. Several districts across the United States have developed assessments that cross over into numerous content-standard areas, and we are trying to find a series that will fit our district’s needs. Once we have reliable evaluations in all content areas, the board would like to see the KSBP plan include, either as an add-on or as a piece of the salary schedule, a component that ties accountability to student outcomes.

Q. How does the recent threat to the half-cent sales tax for education affect the future of the district and expensive programs such as KSBP?

A. The threat to the half-cent sales tax requires caution regarding the long-term financial commitments made by the district. One issue that was raised during discussion in the House Education Commission was whether or not the monies raised by the half-cent sales tax should fall within the district’s allotted 20 percent override for local source funding. At present, this is not the case. However, in the future, if the half-cent sales taxes are included in that figure, the district will have nowhere to turn for additional revenues.

Q. The district has available to it a mill-levy override that could provide up to $1.335 million per year if approved by voters. Is asking voters to approve the mill levy override an option the School Board is considering or will consider to help pay for KSBP?

A. Going to the voters for a mill levy override certainly is an option, but the threat to the half-cent sales tax has to be factored into the discussion and the decision. Current economic trends and their impact on the local community also must be examined. Last Monday was the first time the board was presented with any concrete figures upon which to begin discussions. At this point, nothing has been ruled in or out.