Teachers in the Seaman Unified School District 345 will be receiving an overall average increase of 3.1 percent in salaries and health insurance benefits after approval on Monday by the board of education.
Bob Horton, USD 345’s director of business services, said the increase for the 2017-18 school year is a 2.7 percent hike in pay, coupled with a .4 percent increase in the district’s contribution to the certified health insurance.
The compensation package includes step and lateral movement on the salary schedule, meaning any increase in pay depends on years of service combined with educational attainment. It also includes a one-time bonus of $600 added to each salary “cell” and $25 added to the monthly Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Kansas health insurance premium that USD 345 pays.
“I’m truly grateful we were able to work together, that we were able to present a significant increase for our staff,” said Frank Henderson, board vice president. “We would have liked to have gone higher but we didn’t have the finances to do that.”
Henderson said the district didn’t have the amount of money this year for salaries that the negotiating team would have liked. He said that’s because the per pupil state aid reverted back to pre-block grant levels when USD 345 enrollment was down. He said with per pupil funding restored by the Kansas Legislature this year and with an increase in enrollment, he’s hopeful more money will be available for salaries for the 2018-19 school year.
“We’ll see a significant increase then,” he said. “We certainly want to keep our salaries competitive and attract and retain the best educators for our students.”
The starting salary for a USD 345 teacher will now be $36,350 as a result of the approved contract.
“I hope as a district we look at having competitive salaries for our teachers,” said board member Christie Appelhanz. “Going forward, I just hope that we look at ways to do better next year.”
“I concur,” board member Cherie Sage added.
Sarah Brinkley, president of the NEA-Seaman teachers union, said this year’s contract was approved by an 88 percent margin which she said is a “clear majority vote.”
“However, we as a negotiating team feel that we have ground to catch up on,” she said. “We need to be in the business of retaining those good teachers that we’ve had in this district for a long time and making our salary schedule and our benefits package more equal with those in the rest of Shawnee County. That’s going to be more attractive for those who would want to stay.”
The Topeka USD 501 board of education approved a 4.4 percent overall average in salary increases on Aug. 17. The Shawnee Heights USD 450 board of education approved their teachers’ contract on Aug. 21 that includes a 2.5 percent average increase in pay and benefits while board members for the Auburn-Washburn USD 437 approved an average increase in salary and benefits of 4.7 percent, also on Aug. 21. Silver Lake USD 372 board members approved a 2.4 percent average increase in pay and benefits on Aug. 24.
Also on Monday, superintendent Steve Noble reported to board members that the district’s five-year graduation rate was 91 percent.
Kansas State Department of Education’s measure of postsecondary success in order to meet workforce needs requires that the state’s graduates achieve a success rate in the 70 to 75 percent range.
The postsecondary success rate “is the percent of high school graduates who are still enrolled in a postsecondary institution or have successfully completed a postsecondary program two years out of high school,” according to KSDE.
Noble said USD 345’s five-year success rate is 50 percent.
“We lose a bunch of students after year one (after graduation),” he told board members. “They’re not going back and finishing but we’re putting programs in place in the Seaman school district to address that issue.”
Noble said the district also plans to contact Seaman High School graduates to get feedback on what can be done to address their postsecondary success.
Monday marked the first meeting that was streamed live on the district’s website by Open Media Foundation, a Denver-based nonprofit organization. The district won’t be charged for the first year of streaming services.
Board president Fred Patton didn’t attend Monday’s meeting.
Contact reporter Angela Deines at (785) 295-1143 or follow her on Twitter @AngelaDeines.