Convincing new teachers to make the move to Columbia hasn’t been easy for Assistant Superintendent Mary Laffey.
“Frankly, if you watch me at a recruiting fair in St. Louis, I won’t really be talking to anyone,” Laffey told the Board of Education during a Thursday morning work session. Laffey said she has to go to the lines of higher paying schools to make a case for the jobs she has to offer because few people come to her booth.
A new proposal that would increase teachers’ salaries in Columbia Public Schools for the upcoming school year was the main focus of the work session. Laffey presented the salary proposal she created with input from the Columbia Community Teachers Association.
The meeting was a continuation of a discussion about teacher salaries that began in November.
Columbia ranks ninth in average salary in relation to 12 other districts in Missouri that local school officials use to make comparisons. The Columbia district, however, finishes last in comparison to the other schools for starting salaries.
“I tend to agree with people who say we do not pay our teachers enough,” school board member Darin Preis said.
The new proposal calls for a $700 increase in base salary along with annual raises that are already in place.
To give added incentive to new teachers, the proposal calls for a new minimum salary of $33,000. Superintendent Phyllis Chase said this new minimum salary would give the district added leverage in trying to win over new teachers.
School board member Elton Fay said that if the starting salary of $28,202 is not increased, it will make it easier for teachers to be “plucked” away by another district. Fay said that by residing at the bottom in the starting salary category, Columbia will soon lose the ability to employ as many quality new teachers. Laffey believes that a starting salary of $33,000 may be what Columbia Public Schools need to be competitive and get into the top five districts used in the comparisons.
“It’s about being able to recruit and retain our qualified staff,” Laffey said.
Columbia Public Schools places a strong emphasis on class size, and school board member David Ballenger said that’s something all school employees should understand. Ballenger pointed out that other schools will let class size increase in order to be able to offer higher pay for fewer employees.
While school board members do not want to lose sight of class size goals, they did agree that increasing salary is key in the pursuit of new teachers. Laffey believes the board is excited about this “hybrid” salary proposal because it will reward existing staff and provide incentive for newcomers without costing the district jobs.
“I think this is a brilliant plan,” Preis said.