Two-year pay plan for teachers approved by Lindbergh board

LNEA head terms agreement ‘a step in the right direction’

By MIKE ANTHONY

A two-year salary schedule for Lindbergh Schools teachers that provides an average annual increase of 2.8 percent was approved last week by the Board of Education.

Board members voted unanimously May 24 to adopt the salary schedule for the 2011-2012 and the 2012-2013 school years.

Lindbergh National Education Association teachers previously had voted to approve the salary schedule by a 4-to-1 margin with 118 “yes” votes and 29 “no” votes, Assistant Superintendent for Personnel Services Rick Francis told the board.

The schedule will provide teachers with a 3.87-percent salary increase for the 2011-2012 school year and a 1.78-percent pay raise for the 2012-2013 school year.

Before the board voted to approve the two-year salary schedule, Francis related how district officials started meeting with LNEA leadership informally around spring break in March and conducted several such meetings before the start of actual negotiations.

“… We wanted to get an early start on taking a look at our teachers’ salary schedule, trying to make it more appealing not only for the teachers that are here — retaining the teaching staff that we have — but also to recruit great teachers to Lindbergh,” he said. “I would call our negotiation process a very positive collaboration. Some board members were able to be there and to observe these sessions and may want to comment, but tonight the administration is recommending a two-year teacher salary schedule. We’ve never had a salary schedule with one table where you look at it and you know exactly what you’re going to make in ’11-’12 and then look one step below that for ’12-’13. And so I think that is an improvement.”

Noting teachers “voted overwhelmingly” to approve the two-year salary schedule, Francis said, “This would result in an annual average increase of 2.8 percent, and if you look at it that way this is enough to cover the cost-of-living increases that we’re currently seeing. I believe our current CPI (Consumer Price Index) is 2.5 (percent)?”

Chief Financial Officer Pat Lanane said, “That’s correct.”

Francis continued, “And so we believe that this salary schedule is certainly a step in the right direction, certainly following two years of reductions …”

While the two-year salary schedule provides for an annual average increase of 2.8 percent, board member Ken Fey asked, “… So what is it for the first year and what is it for the second?”

Francis replied, “The teachers asked to have it front-loaded …”

Fey said, “That’s what I was wondering.”

Francis continued, “So the first year will be 3.87 percent and the second year much lower. It will be 1.78 percent.”

Fey asked, “What was the teachers’ thinking on the front-loading?”

Francis replied, “Well, it was simply that many of the teachers — going back to last year — really had a net pay loss in take-home money and so they were needing to do some catching up.”

Fey said, “… Fair enough.”

For the current school year, teachers received a 1-percent salary increase, but due to increased costs for insurance and retirement benefits, many Lindbergh teachers saw a decrease in take-home pay.

The teachers’ decision to accept a 1-percent pay increase instead of a 2-percent salary hike allowed six full-time classroom teaching positions to be reinstated for the 2010-2011 school year.

Board President Vic Lenz said that during last year’s negotiations “there was quite a bit of discussion about the inadequacy of some of these (salary schedule) steps and things like that. I can tell you that from my observation, there was a lot of collaboration going on between the teachers and the administration — a lot of real discussion to fix those steps … A lot of things were accomplished in this schedule, which we probably wouldn’t have been able to accomplish had we not had that collaboration. The teachers were suggesting things that had we suggested them or had they suggested them, we would probably have a war. But in order to accomplish the things that the teaching staff wanted, it worked out beautifully …”

Francis said, “… There are increases in the steps where we were farther behind in comparison to benchmark districts that we were able to move a bit closer.”

Lenz asked, “This does not put us up to our benchmark districts, though?”

Francis replied that Lindbergh continues to fall short in comparison to its benchmark districts — six local school districts Lindbergh monitors to ensure its salaries remain competitive with districts competing for the same personnel. Those districts are: Kirkwood, Mehlville, Parkway, Pattonville, Rockwood and Webster Groves.

Lenz said, “… In my estimation, we still have to keep our eye on what those other benchmark districts are doing because that’s how we attract the teachers. We have to maintain the equivalence to their salary schedules if we’re going to keep attracting the teachers and maintaining the quality district that we have.”

Calling the result of the negotiations “a very positive arrangement,” Superintendent Jim Simpson said, “The partnership between the administration and the teachers I thought was outstanding … I think it’s a true partnership for this teacher raise. I think all parties are satisfied we’ve gone as far as we can go. In other words, we understand that competitiveness and we understand also that they haven’t had a decent raise in almost three years, and so it’s something I think the teachers are very pleased with …”

Fey later asked how much the increase in total compensation — salary, insurance and retirement benefits — would amount under the new agreement, and Francis said the increase in total compensation would be 4.54 percent for the 2011-2012 school year. For the 2012-2013 school year, the increase in total compensation will amount to 2.27 percent.

Of the two-year salary schedule, LNEA President Scott Fleming told the Call, “We’re ecstatic that it’s approved. Otherwise it would be an awful lot of work without — a lot of time and effort that would have been wasted, so we would have been a little bit disappointed had it not been approved.”

Fleming agreed with district officials that the negotiation process was a collaborative one.

“We definitely came together,” he said. “Administration had some ideas. The NEA negotiations team had ideas and basically it was a monthlong process where we tried to come up with the best ways that we could make a schedule that made sense, was financially achievable and would actually be better than we we have right now. So that was the goal …

“For us, what we think is this is a step in the right direction. If we compare our salaries to our local benchmark districts, we are still thousands of dollars behind them in many parts of the schedule so we hope to address that in the next negotiation round,” Fleming added.

Francis told the Call district officials were pleased the salary schedule will keep pace with cost-of-living increases.

“When we look at an average over two years of 2.8 (percent), it’s pretty close to cost of living and we’re certainly glad to kind of get back to compensating for at least the cost of living,” he said. “… The negotiations were a positive collaboration in trying to do what was in the best interest of staff, students and the community.”