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School Board approves select salary schedules for new hires

Monday, May 10, 2010 | 11:13 p.m. CDT; updated 11:47 p.m. CDT, Monday, May 10, 2010

COLUMBIA — In Monday night’s School Board meeting, two of three proposals for salary schedules for new hires in select employment groups were approved.

Per the board’s decision, newly hired instructional aides, home school communicators, nurses and outreach counselors will be placed on the newly formed salary schedules starting in the 2010-11 school year.

The proposed salary schedules were created after a professional compensation company came in 2006-07 to make pay recommendations to the school district. 

“Compensation should be appropriate for the job,” Mary Laffey, assistant superintendent for human resources, told the board members.

The current salary schedule allows employees to receive raises based on years of experience, known as steps, and additional hours of academic credit.

The proposals approved by the board would halt the moves based on academic credit for the new schedule after Sept. 15. The majority of current employees would be grandfathered in, according to the plan.

A vote on salary schedules was postponed from the April 12 board meeting, when Laffey presented the schedules.

The Parents as Teachers salary schedule, which was first presented to the board Monday night, was not approved. Laffey said the proposed schedule could have saved the district approximately $400,000, which could have been used for other expenses.

The Parents as Teachers program began in Missouri and teaches parents how to encourage their children’s early development and prepare them for kindergarten.

Board President Jan Mees asked Laffey to touch on how qualified educators in the Parents as Teachers program in the district are.

Laffey said that 97 percent of Parents as Teachers educators in the district have degrees, although it is not necessary. Laffey estimated that about 10 of the 39 Parents as Teachers were formerly educators.  One of the biggest differences in the job is that teachers have a contract of teaching about 180 days, while Parents as Teachers work about 220 days of the year.

The Missouri General Assembly has recommended reducing funding for the program by as much as 59 percent. If Gov. Nixon approves the reductions, Columbia will have roughly six weeks to reduce its Parents as Teachers staff from 37 to 20, according to an earlier Missourian report.  

Mees said that she would not vote to approve the Parents as Teachers proposal.

“With the (Parents as Teachers) program in such dire conditions, … I cannot agree to this,” Mees said.

Robin Hubbard, who calls herself the district’s loyal opposition, said she supported Mees.

“It is a critical program and everyone is beating up on it. Maybe we should just leave it alone for a while.”

Voting no on the proposed salary schedule for new hires as Parents as Teachers were Jonathan Sessions, James Whitt, Michelle Pruitt and Mees.

Other items discussed in the meeting include:

  • The Race to the Top Fund: The board moved to sign a recognition of participation in the Race to the Top Fund, a grant program from the Department of Education, despite vocal opposition from the Columbia branches of the Missouri National Education Association and the Missouri State Teachers Association. Although many questions about how the program would affect Columbia Public Schools remain unanswered, board member Whitt said he didn’t want the board to eliminate itself from future revenue sources by not participating.
  • The social media policy: On Superintendent Chris Belcher’s recommendation, the board sent the policy back to committees for discussion and feedback from students, teachers, parents and other stakeholders. “I think this is such a big topic and one that involves things that many of us don’t even know of,” Belcher said.
  • New high school construction: Bids for excavation of the site of Columbia’s new high school will come in Friday, Belcher said. The board said it will make as much information on construction as possible open to the public.
  • High school gymnasiums: The board approved a recommendation to authorize Peckham & Wright Architects to start design developments for new gymnasiums at Hickman and Rock Bridge high schools.

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