By Adam Thorp
The Pike R-III School Board will revisit the question of teacher pay, board members said at their meeting last week.
With the district under budget pressure, teachers received contracts in the last few weeks without “step” increases — routine increases in pay as they gain experience and educational credentials.
Lynn Hall, a Clopton teacher and a member of the Clopton Teachers Association, presented the board with estimates of the cost of the step increases drawn up by the Missouri State Teacher Association, an organization that advocates for the interests of the state’s teachers.
Including Medicare and retirement costs, the MSTA estimated a cost of $26,580 for a step.
“They sent me all kinds of information, but I didn’t want to share all that with you,” Hall said. “My main focus was just getting a step for [our] years of service. Not anything extra.”
“There’s has not been a lot of discussion about salary. When the salary schedule was approved, I think there was an assumption that we would get the step, because there has not been a freeze on the salary schedule. So that’s what we’re hoping to get: a step,” Hall added.
Superintendent Mark Harvey told the board he would need to review the information, which he was seeing for the first time at Monday’s meeting. As of last weekend, Harvey said he had not had a chance to dig into the analysis, but said the MSTA seemed to be “generally pretty close.”
President Bob Danuser raised the possibility of a one-time stipend for teachers that would fill in to some extent for the missed step without committing the district for the long term.
“I brought that up [during the initial conversation about the salary schedule] because I’ve always thought our teachers needed to be taken care of,” Danuser said.
“I have a hard time giving a raise when we’re struggling, but I kind of look at that a little bit differently than I do the step process. I think there’s a difference,” school board member Greg Talbert said.
Teachers had been subject to a five-year pay freeze during a previous period of financial difficulties for the district.
“This affects our certified staff, but I’ve also heard concerns from our non-certified staff with regard to their wages,” Harvey said. He had also heard concerns from district employees that do not take the district’s insurance that the financial help covering insurance costs recently implemented by the board did not benefit them, Harvey said.
The board will also consider the amount of money they want the district to keep in reserve — a figure Harvey said would define their freedom of movement in terms of their budget, on step increases and other issues.
“For a year, year-and-a-half I’ve been told that the Board will come up with a number, as far as what they expect or want reserve wise. Then we can even gauge it closer. There’s no sense in me recommending scrimping here or there when the Board says we’re willing to go to 20 percent [in reserves],” Harvey said. The Board will have to factor in how it expects the district’s revenue to behave and the scale of unexpected expenses it might incur, Harvey added.
High School Principal Larry Lagemann is in talks with St. Charles Community College to enlist Clopton students in a program that allows high school juniors and seniors to take college level courses and graduate with an Associate’s Degree.
Students in St. Charles schools participate in the program on the community college’s campus, but Lagemann has spoken to Pike Lincoln Technical Center Director Martin Hanley and representatives of the other schools that send students to PLTC about hosting it there.
“The ball’s now kind of in [St. Charles Community College’s] court. There are probably a lot of logistics to work out, but they’re very interested in seeing what kind of opportunities they can expand on in our area,” Lagemann said.