Everybody will get a raise

750

Nathan Wilson | Reporter
The Natchitoches Parish School Board reviewed plans for its 2022-23 teacher and staff salary schedules Thursday, March 10.
The new salary schedules increase pay for teachers and school staff by taking advantage of recurring cost savings and operational improvements. Along with addressing issues the district faces with recruitment and retention, the salary schedule also applies new methodology to the pay adjustments teachers and staff earn based on their experience and qualifications.
One challenge the district faces in retaining staff and recruiting new teachers is that several neighboring parishes are among the highest paying in the state. While introducing a draft copy of the salary schedule to the school board Feb. 17, Dr. Grant Eloi, district superintendent, revealed his team referenced DeSoto Parish’s salary schedule while revising its own. DeSoto Parish was ranked as having the second highest average teacher pay in the state after Red River Parish for the 2021-22 academic year.

This article published in the March 12, 2022, print edition

The new salary schedules integrate the sales tax supplements into each table. While the sales tax supplement is only an estimate based on projections of next year’s sales tax receipts, district officials hope that displaying this component of total compensation will appeal to teachers who may have overlooked opportunities in Natchitoches based on the lower base salary values. Further discussion of compensation values will refer to estimates of total compensation for simplicity.
For a first year teacher with a bachelor’s degree, starting pay in Natchitoches will be approximately $50,000 including the sales tax supplement. For DeSoto Parish, the base salary for a similarly qualified teacher in 2021-22 was $50,000 with supplemental amounts of $2,150 each issued in November and May. DeSoto Parish awards additional supplements based on factors such as performance, school need and subject need with these supplement amounts ranging from $1,000 – $2,500.
School district officials also hope the revised salary schedule will retain experienced teachers while holding them accountable for meeting high standards. Under the new salary schedule, a teacher with a bachelor’s degree and five years of experience would earn an estimated $52,811.17, an increase of $3,691.17 over the $49,120 estimated under the previous salary schedule.
One criticism Dr. Eloi leveled against the old salary schedule is the variability the schedule applies to pay increases awarded based on years of experience. Under the old salary schedule, teachers with 13 years of service for 2021-22 could expect to earn nearly $850 more than teachers with 12 years of experience. For the same year, a teacher with 14 years of service could expect to earn only $48.75 more than a teacher with 13 years. The new salary schedule implements more consistent pay increases with each year of experience with the lowest increases equaling approximately $550 for teachers early in their careers.
Absent from the new salary schedules are tables for school administration. These tables have been eliminated and replaced with administrative multipliers applied to the teacher salary schedule to account for the total years of service administrators have earned. While this allows teachers to retain their qualifying years of experience when promoted to administrative roles, in some instances veteran administrators may have fewer qualifying years than newly promoted administrators with more classroom experience. Dr. Eloi remarked on this scenario, “What we found in this, because we looked at a ton of these, there is no perfect system.”
School staff members ranging from food service employees to bus drivers will also receive substantial pay increases. Under the new salary schedule, a paraprofessional with a year of experience and an associate’s degree can anticipate a pay increase of more than $3,000 a year. A nine month food service technician with four years would see their yearly pay increase $2,000 from $16,618.75 to $18,618.79. The bus drivers and bus aides who were hired before the district outsourced the service can anticipate earning $21,082 and $15,998 per year respectively with 25 years of service.
While presenting school board members with a draft copy of the salary schedules, Dr. Eloi emphasized the turnover among district secretaries as a challenge he hoped to address; he stressed that in spite of the administrative workload the role entails, some secretaries were taking home less than $500 each month after deducting the cost of benefits.
One source of funds supporting the increased salary schedule is Medicaid reimbursements the school board earns for services provided to students with disabilities. A thorough review of district finances led by Director of Business and Finance Lee Waskom revealed that the district previously missed out on many of these reimbursements to the tune of $1.1 million. An example of an eligible activity for Medicaid reimbursement occurs when a student is transported to meet healthcare staff for diagnostic testing such as hearing, vision and dental screenings.
Waskom noted that with the efficiencies his budget review has realized, the total additional cost to the district’s general fund is anticipated at $26,000 for payroll increases of $3.5 million. Concluding the presentation of the salary schedule, Eloi remarked. “Our starting teacher salary will be equal to DeSoto.” Waskom addressed the scope of the changes. “Everybody will get a raise.”
To view salary schedules for all Natchitoches parish school district employees visit https://go.boarddocs.com/la/npsb/Board.nsf/files/CCCLDY5559A6/$file/NPSB Salary Schedule Final 3-15-22.pdf