Mehlville School District teachers’ salary increases range from 1.62% to 6.88%

Teacher emphasizes need for more funding

By MIKE ANTHONY

Mehlville School District teachers will receive raises ranging from 1.62 percent to 6.88 percent for the 2006-2007 school year.

The Board of Education voted unanimously during a May 25 closed session to approve an agreement with the Mehlville National Education Association for the coming school year. Ninety-three percent of Mehlville NEA members previously had voted to approve the pact.

“The overall salary (increase) for administrative and classified staff was 4.5 percent,” Board of Education Vice President Karl Frank Jr. told the Call. “The teachers with channel changes averaged 5.1 percent … But without channel changes, all the teachers that did not advance their degrees, they averaged 4.1 percent.”

The agreement increases the base salary by $500, Frank said, adding, “So the overall raises for teachers average between 1.62 percent and 6.88 percent …”

Frank and Cindy Christopher represented the board in negotiations with teachers, and Frank noted that employee salary increases originally were projected at 2.4 percent. But revenues are better than anticipated, and with the retirements of about 60 teachers, including many veteran educators, the district will spend $640,000 less in salaries for 2006-2007 than this year.

The 2006-2007 salary schedule is comprised of five channels — Bachelor’s, Bachelor’s +15, Master’s, Master’s +30 and Multiple Advanced Degrees. Channels denote a teacher’s level of education. Each channel also includes steps that represent each year a teacher has worked.

For the coming school year, the salary for a beginning teacher will be $32,526, up from $32,006. Teachers on the 16th step of the Multiple Advanced Degrees channel will be paid $67,091 for 2006-2007, up from last year’s top step of $66,019.

For the 2006-2007 school year, teachers who have earned a National Board Certification or an educational specialist degree will receive $1,000 added to their salary, up from $500. In addition, teachers who have earned a doctorate degree will receive $1,500 added to their salary for the coming school year, up from $1,000.

At the May 25 board meeting, Kay Cappos, a Blades Elementary teacher who served as the chief negotiator for the Mehlville NEA, addressed the board regarding the compensation package.

“Currently, Mehlville School District ranks 23rd out of 24 St. Louis County School Districts in per-pupil expenditure. Next year, we certainly will not move ahead and there is concern that we will become 24th or last,” she said. “If an outsider would look at the economy of our district, I feel they would be surprised at this ranking. Is this what our community wants? Would they want our test scores to be 23rd or 24th in the county. In my opinion, the reason our students perform better than one would expect from the amount of money the public is willing to invest in education is because of dedicated teachers. Teachers who take time away from their families to plan. Teachers who spend their own money on materials and supplies for students because the district cannot afford to fund these items. Thankfully, our parents also help us to purchase some of what we need and by expecting their children to achieve in the classroom.

“Teachers are leaving Mehlville to teach in other districts. Some teachers who teach in areas that are hard to fill are being recruited away by other districts that know our financial situation and rightly assume they can lure these teachers to their school. Dr. (A.D.) McClain stated at the last board meeting when the resignations were presented that some of these teachers are leaving for a shorter commute. While that is true for some, others are telling me they are happy to drive an extra 15 minutes for $3,000, $4,000 or $9,700 more a year in salary, allowing one teacher to quit a second job she has to make ends meet.

“Teachers are leaving for smaller class sizes, for textbooks, for supplies and for a supportive environment where education is valued. Two years ago, I stood before our teachers and told them because of the finances of the district, the recommendation was for a frozen salary schedule with only steps and channels being given. The vote was a clear majority to help the district at that difficult time. Almost all other employee groups agreed with this and also had frozen salaries. Last year, I stood before our teachers and said there was only $50 available to add to the base, which was an increase that would not be seen in our take-home checks because of the one-half-percent increase in the state-required contribution to the retirement fund.

“This year, I was able to tell our teachers that there was $500 to add to the base. However, this will still keep us well below the county median. I have called many school districts and asked what their base pay will be next year. All are also adding to the base and most are adding at least $500 and several more,” she said. “Our beginning pay will still rank us 22 out of 24 county school districts, but I fear we will be moving even farther below the county median, yet based on the facts they had at the time, 93 percent of our teachers voted favorably on the package and were pleased the board was willing to give this raise when finances are so difficult for our district.

“While I know that the seven members of this school board know the facts and support teachers, my fear is that the public will read only the headline and not know the whole story. I hope the local newspaper article headline is not ‘Mehlville school teachers get $500 pay raise.’ That might imply to the voters that Prop A funds were not needed after all when more funding is most certainly needed. I wish the headline would read ‘some class sizes to increase from 24 to 31’ or ‘teaming at middle schools in name only’ because in my opinion the four middle schools do not have the number of teachers to truly implement teaming, or ‘loss of planning time for elementary teachers who only have textbooks for two subjects’ or ‘raises offered to teachers because the teaching staff was reduced by over 20 teachers.’ All of those headlines would give a more accurate picture of the Mehlville School District.

Noting that teachers appreciate the board’s willingness to spend down the district’s balances to 6 percent “to give them this modest raise,” Cappos said, “I want to make sure the public understands that there still is a definite need for more funding for our schools. The teachers of the Mehlville School District spend extra time and personal money to give our children a quality education, and we hope the public will soon agree our students deserve some of that additional funding. I do thank you for this salary increase for teachers and classified staff after the last two years. However, I hope that the school board and teachers can work together to convince the public that there is a definite need for more funding …”