by Stephanie Eaton
Platte County R-3 School District employees will be receiving a raise during the upcoming school year.
According to Platte County R-3 School Superintendent Mike Reik, the pay raise is “long overdue” and was made possible by years of conservative budgeting.
While Reik and the board supported the pay increase, one resident at Thursday night’s meeting questioned whether or not all the facts and comparisons about the pay increase were presented.
The board voted unanimously to increase the average teacher salary by 3.59 percent, certified staff not on a salary schedule would receive a 3.59 percent increase, classified staff will see an average increase of 5.12 percent, technical/ professional staff will see an average increase of 3.89 percent, and substitute teachers will also see an increase in pay.
Platte County resident Kirby Holden discussed the matter during the public comment portion of the meeting.
Holden told the board that he had looked at the salary and benefit presentation online before attending the board meeting. He said that several items were missing from the presentation and he wanted to make the board aware of those items before they made their decision.
“I noticed it (presentation) was missing a couple items and it was also missing last year,” Holden said. “I wanted to make sure you were aware of the items and how they affect that chart because at some point you guys are going to be asking the community for more money and if it doesn't pass, if you do not get your bond passed or your levy passed you are going to say 'How can they (voters) not do this? How can they not understand?'”
Holden said he was concerned about the chart presented to the school board about teacher salaries and how they compare to school districts across the region.
“On this chart it has a listing of average teachers’ salaries. Platte County is listed at number five.”
According to Holden, there were several things missing from the salary chart. He said what the chart did not look at was years of teaching experience and levels of education that the teachers possessed.
“When you look at Park Hill on this chart they are at roughly $6,000 more per year than our employees. Well, years of experience at Park Hill is 12.3. Years of experience in Platte County is 12.7. So our employees have a little bit more experience. “
However, Holden said the reason Park Hill employees get paid more is before of their higher levels of education. Holden stated that 82.2 percent of the Park Hill employees have upper level degrees while only 74.2 percent of Platte County R-3 School District employees have upper level degrees.
“So almost eight percent more have higher degrees, so that means their pay raise instantly is somewhere between $1,500 on the chart to $8,000 more. Okay, so you can kind of see why Park Hill is higher and that was not in the presentations.”
Other school systems that ranked higher in pay than Platte County R-3 Schools were Grandview, Blue Springs and Lee Summit. Holden said there were reasons why each school system paid more. According to Holden, Grandview teachers had more years of experience than the teachers on average in the R-3 School District.
Holden also said the average Blue Springs educators have more years of experience and have more educators with upper level education than those working at R-3.
Lee’s Summit educators have an average of 15 years of experience compared to Platte County R-3's 12.7 percent and Lee’s Summit is nine percent higher than Platte County when it comes to educators with upper level degrees.
Holden questioned why the information was not presented in the chart given to the school board.
“That should be included in this chart. I do not know why it wouldn't be. It is easy to cut and paste it. I have got it and it is easy to look at.”
Holden also pointed out that there were schools in the region that were getting paid less and their scores were better than those in the Platte County R-3 School District.
“If you go below us on the chart you’re going to see schools like Smithville pay 10 percent less than us, their teachers have more years of experience, their average ACT test scores for seven years have been higher than ours and yet they have 10 percent less pay than us.”
After seeing the results of Smithville, Holden said he was concerned about an e-mail that was sent out in April by Platte County R-3 School Board member Sharon Sherwood. He said that Sherwood said that the district needed to care for teachers and support staff appropriately. Holden said he agreed that the school district and support staff should be compensated appropriately, but then questioned what “fair and reasonable” compensation was.
“Without seeing this chart as a whole looking at the hours and years of experience it is hard to figure out what fair and reasonable should be. I would think it would be somewhere in the middle or above, not at the very top.”
Holden said currently the R-3 district is in the top 10 percent of pay out of 79 districts in the Kansas City, Mo. area.
After Holden spoke, the public comment portion of the meeting came to an end and the topic of the salary increase was presented to the board. According to Dr. Reik there were several reasons that the district could afford a salary increase this year.
“What has put us in a position to allow us to enhance salaries and benefits throughout the district in all the classifications, teachers, support staff members, administration, etc., has been conservative budgeting, proactive measures and lean salary increases over the past five years. It has put us in a healthy position coming out of a recession and in particular our teachers have seen steps frozen three out of the last five years.”
Board member Lenora Miles said she was happy to see an increase in pay for substitute teachers. Substitute teachers will see an increase in short term substitute teaching jobs from $90 a day to $95 a day. Long term substitute teaching jobs will see an increase from $110 a day to $140 a day
Board members questioned Reik about whether it was hard to find substitute teachers for the district. Reik said yes it was difficult to find substitute teachers because they were not as competitive with other school districts in the Northland area in the area of pay.
According to Reik, the pay raise for teachers, staff and substitute teachers was a part of the district's Comprehensive Improvement Plan.
“As you are aware, part of meeting goal four of our Comprehensive School Improvement Plan which is to attract, retain, and develop a high quality work force, part of that requires competitive salary and benefit.”
According to school officials, the fiscal year salary and benefits recommendations were the product of a collaborative effort by members of Team Platte County and the Salary Task Force. The Task Force and Team Platte County consisted of administrators, teachers and staff. According to school officials, the Task Force and Team Platte County discussed salaries and benefits over the course of several meetings to formulate a final recommendation.