A persistent problem in Cumberland County schools is high long-term employee turnover, and the school board has made it a mission to address this issue in the upcoming school year’s budget.
During the budget meeting on May 24, Kacee Harris, chief financial officer of the BOE, presented a proposed salary grid for the 2022-23 school year. Harris said in a May 16 meeting that the salary schedule proposed an investment of about $1.2 million in the certified ladder and about $1.4 million in the uncertified ladder.
The salary schedule presented shows a 4.8% increase for all teachers and system specialists in the school district.
For example, a teacher with a bachelor’s degree and one year of experience earns $38,885 per year. According to the proposed budget, this teacher would earn $40,751 per year.
Non-certified positions, in this proposal, would also receive increases.
The previous draft budget presented on May 11 called for an average increase in uncertified salaries of 20%, to see how this would affect the bottom line of the budget.
However, as Harris received more specific numbers for each individual job, this changed the proposed uncertified salary schedule.
“This resulted in significant increases, which we knew were coming on the uncertified scale for our uncertified employees and supervisors,” Harris said. For example, the starting salary of a school maintenance worker would increase from $11.95 to $14 per hour, an increase of 17%.
The daily rate for a bus driver would increase from $47.32 to $70 per day, an increase of nearly 48%.
“We knew, just looking at our current scale, that some people were making less than $9 an hour. We knew we had to go up,” Harris said.
In February, the board allocated $30,000 for an uncertified salary study, after the BOE salary committee recommended it, and they chose Lean Frog Consulting Services to conduct the study on their behalf. .
In this salary study, Lean Frog analyzed information provided by county school system salary grids, employee data that includes their pay rate, experience, educational credentials, and job descriptions for each position within from school. This way, Lean Frog was able to accurately compare the data to compensation provided for similar positions in areas surrounding Cumberland County.
“We’re used to thinking in terms of percentages or district-wide increases, and this really dug a lot deeper than that and looked at the specifics of the job and what those percentages needed to be for increase to fairer pay,” Harris said.
Chasitie White, Lean Frog’s human resources consultant and principal consultant, presented the results of the study on May 16.
“We first understand very well how you manage your compensation structure and how people are rewarded for their longevity,” White explained.
Positions presented by White on May 16 included maintenance, secretarial, administrative and technical, as well as bus drivers and teacher’s aides for general and special education classes.
The salary study also considered the need for the school system to compete with the local labor market, not just education jobs. The study then compares positions within Cumberland County schools to city jobs that best match job description and experience, to see the difference in pay between them.
“I saw at least three signs on the way to Buc-ee’s, paying $16 to $20 an hour,” White said. “Those are the kinds of things that also need to be taken into consideration when you’re looking at salary, especially for these types of jobs.”
Salary study results recommend a 3% step longevity allowance for each year an employee works in a non-certified position until their 16th year. An example from the study shows that a bus driver’s daily wage rate in his first year on the job would be $47.3. By their 16th year, that rate would increase to $75.93.
Between 16 and 20 years of work, there will be a 1% step, plus longevity thereafter, paid at the end of the semester. Between 21 and 25 years of work, the longevity allowance will be increased to 3.5% of the total salary of the position, and after 26 years, it will be increased to 4%. In the 26th year of a bus driver, he would be earning $83.87 a day, a 44% increase in the first year’s salary.
“Because it takes a long time to be able to make big changes like this, these schedules that I came up with had to be competitive and at least achievable, as well as sustainable,” White said. “So we want to think long term. We didn’t want to overcommit you to something you couldn’t afford in the long term.
“It was a big step, I think, for us to do this, and the amount of data analyzed is breathtaking,” Harris said.
Another recommendation from Lean Frog is to develop two different pay scales for non-certified supervisors, due to the different reporting responsibilities within this job. The first tier, with a starting salary of $55,000 per year, would include department supervisors. The second tier, with a starting salary of $65,000 per year, would be for the HR position and CFO positions, both of which can be certified or uncertified.
This led to the discussion of the increase in the director of human resources. In the 2021-22 school budget, Director of Human Resources Kim Bray received $57,083 for her annual salary. However, under the proposed budget with raises and longevity bonus, Bray’s annual salary would be $78,443, an increase of $21,359.
“When you look at the data, that’s what I want us to focus on, and you look at the position, I felt that was really the right thing to do, to bring up this discussion, as awkward as it is- her,” Harris said. . “Obviously when there’s a person on the line, or when there’s a person on a scale, it gets a lot of attention.”
Harris told the board that while the percentage increase for each uncertified position will be different, the concept is the same in that it would reflect a fairer salary for the position.
“The average salary for a school human resources supervisor is $83,900. For all industries outside of education, it was $92,600.
However, 9th District Representative Stace Karge said she thought it would set the wrong tone.
“I think everyone in this room can say he’s grossly underpaid, but we’re making choices to be in the areas that we’re in,” Karge said. So looking at this, if I’m a teacher, and I’ve been in the job for 25 years, and I’m at the top of my game, and I’m going to get a 4.8% raise, and I’m looking at a not certified [position] that all of a sudden I get a $21,000 raise, which is half my salary, I’m going to be a bit out of whack.
“I would feel like I was slapped,” Karge added.
However, Harris pointed out that it would be unfair for the position to continue to be underpaid.
“When you say this employee is 37% underpaid, does it matter who they are? In my opinion, no. Should their job title matter? we should treat everyone the same,” Harris said.
“I totally understand that, but I think it’s a huge leap to take in one go,” Karge replied. “I think it’s going to kill morale.”
8th District Representative Teresa Boston agreed.
“When we asked for this salary study, our intentions were to bring in assistants, cafeteria workers, bus drivers, those who work in the trenches, and I don’t call those trenches lightly. I mean that with all due respect,” Boston said. “The spirit was to get them on a competitive salary so we could retain them, and quite frankly, so they could do it Friday to Friday.”
“There’s a big jump from $57,000 a year to $78,000. It’s something that as a board member I couldn’t explain when an accountant called me and said, “I thought we were all going to give each other a raise,” Boston continued. “They’re the ones who are going to quit our job and go to Buc-ee for $18 an hour.”
1st District Representative Jim Inman asked if it would be possible for the board to adopt part of the pay scale for some positions, but leave out what has been proposed for other positions, such as uncertified supervisors.
“I agree that Kim needs a raise, but I have to say the rest of the board is a bit over the top,” Inman said.
“I’m a big believer in fairness, and just because you made a choice and took a different job doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be singled out if your salary isn’t what it should be.” should be, whatever the number,” Harris replied. “That study we had done said, ‘OK, show us where people need to be,’ and some people were further away. That’s how we got here. »
Due to the length of the May 24 budget meeting, the bulletin board and recommendation were not discussed, and the meeting was adjourned early. The board decided to meet again in a special meeting to come back to this discussion, the date and time of the meeting yet to be announced. By June 7, the council must submit to the Cumberland County Commission, so the council must approve the budget by that date.