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Whitefish Bay prepares to unveil its preliminary, new compensation model

School district wants to attract, retain best and brightest teachers

March 5, 2014

Whitefish Bay — The Whitefish Bay School District will be presenting a new teacher compensation model for consideration by instructional staff and the School Board in the month ahead.

Superintendent Laura Myrah recently updated the board on the Compensation Committee's progress since the group of three district administrators, four teachers and two board members was tasked last July with developing a teacher compensation system to replace the salary schedule and collective bargaining agreements formerly in place.

With the passage of Wisconsin Act 10 in 2011, teachers' collective bargaining rights were restricted to negotiating only for wage increases up to the level of the consumer price index. Since taking effect, the law change combined with significant reductions in state aid has kept annual pay increases only slightly above 1 percent for Whitefish Bay teachers. The former salary schedule, which compensated teachers for years of experience and continued education, was once predictable and affordable, but that is no longer the case, Myrah said.

In its effort to take advantage of Act 10 provisions for districts to design teacher compensation systems outside of collective bargaining, one of the primary goals of the Compensation Committee has been to devise a financially sustainable model that would help attract and retain excellent teachers, while minimizing damage to morale caused by salary differentiation.

Increases base salary

The draft model, which would include some pay increase for all teachers, proposes increasing the district's starting base teacher salary to $40,000, a step that would serve as a starting point toward raising the floor of the salary structure over time.

Although not yet final, the amount of $40,000 was reached through examination of the salary and benefits of comparable school districts in southeastern Wisconsin, Myrah said. To get all teachers to the desired base level, the model would require the district to complete "fixes" to adjust the salaries of teachers currently earning below that amount. Additional adjustments also are proposed for teachers who during the last three years would have received lane movement under the old salary schedule, Myrah said, such as through earning continuing education credits or degrees.

Those adjustments would need to occur prior to the district allocating raises for the 2013-14 school year, Myrah said. If completed, the base salary scale for teachers in the district would then range from $40,000 to about $81,000, as compared with the current range of just below $37,000 to about $77,000.

In an effort to motivate staff to pursue professional development of value to the school district, the new structure also would provide teachers with base pay increases for completing preapproved advanced learning, such as national board certification, a master's or doctorate degree, and specialized or additional certifications/licenses.

"That matters so much that we put that onto the base salary for increases, rather than one-time or non-reoccurring stipends," Myrah noted.

The idea is that typically about 85 percent of the total pot available would be used to cover raises for all teachers, Myrah said, while the remaining 15 percent would go toward additional pay increases for those who complete advanced learning, although that could vary. The board would have the authority to determine that allocation, Business Services Director Shawn Yde said.

Another important goal of the committee was to ensure equity in the system. One way their proposal aims to do this is by allocating raises on a sliding scale, pushing more money toward lower-paid teachers and less to the upper end of the salary scale, Myrah said. Further, the committee proposes not offering raises to teachers who are on plans of improvement or whose contracts are not being renewed.

"It's so rare that we have teachers that are being nonrenewed or on formal plans of improvement," Myrah said. "But when they are, it just isn't fair that they're given a raise when that money could go into the pot for teachers who are really doing a great job."

Merit pay not for Bay

Although performance as rated by a supervisor is incorporated into the model through that component, the committee is decidedly against shifting toward a merit pay system at this time, Myrah said.

"There are districts that are doing merit pay bonuses based on performance," Myrah said. "As we looked at the research — and a lot of research, at least for education in particular — that was not panning out as a good idea."

Many studies showed that giving merit pay did not help teachers' performance, Myrah stressed. In fact, it could eventually hinder performance, she added, due to increased competition and decreased collaboration among teachers.

As it relates to performance-based evaluations that will be required under the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction's Educator Effectiveness System, Myrah said the DPI has indicated the model is not meant to rate and remove teachers, and does not recommend that districts tie any salary-related decisions to the model for at least three years.

Among other factors the committee has proposed be considered in compensation is teachers' experience and number of years teaching, as well as within the district, participation in professional development, and leadership roles, such as coaching, mentoring or chairing a department. The work of the committee was informed through analyzing compensation of competing school districts, researching best practices and surveying Whitefish Bay instructional employees, administration and School Board members regarding salary, benefits, work conditions and factors that would be important to include in the salary structure.

Teacher involvement was also a key part of the process, said Marie Greco, one of the board representatives on the Compensation Committee.

"I would say that that might have been the best possible thing that we did here," Greco said. "This certainly put people in the schools that really understood what was going on, and I think that they felt really as a valued part of this process, too."

The committee expects to roll out the full proposal to teachers on March 13. Administration stressed that the model is still preliminary, noting that teacher and board input will be used to refine it in the coming weeks.

Overall, board members expressed support for what was presented, also indicating a desire to hear teacher feedback and further discuss the details in a committee session before taking any action.

NEXT STEPS

·March 13 — Proposed teacher compensation model to be presented to teachers

·March 26 — School Board committee meeting to discuss the proposal, including teacher feedback

·April 9 — School Board business meeting, at which time the board will consider taking action on the model

AT A GLANCE

The Whitefish Bay School District's proposed teacher compensation structure aims to:

· attract and retain the best staff

· minimize damage to teacher morale resulting from salary differentiation

· motivate staff to pursue professional development of value to the school district

· ensure equity in the system by not rewarding under performance

· ensure sustainability/ability to fund

· consider the district's long-term financial health

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