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Board adopts teacher salaries

After nearly two years of talks, teachers in the Superior school district are seeing an update to their salary schedules.

The Superior School Board approved the new schedules May 18. The salary schedule for teachers with a bachelor’s degree saw minor changes, but the master’s schedule underwent a dramatic overhaul.

"The main goal of the district was to attract and retain quality teachers, and that’s really what this schedule does," said Lee Sims, a teacher at Superior High School.

Sims was among six members of the Superior Federation of Teachers, Local 202, who worked with the School Board and administrators to create the new schedules. Also in on the discussions were Board members Christina Kintop and Robert Morehouse, district administrator Janna Stevens and business manager Alayna Burger.

Kintop said it would have been two years this September that the group had worked on the salary schedules. They met almost monthly until January, she said, and then shifted focus to the pending referendum vote. After the referendum passed in April, talks resumed with several meetings in a row until an agreement was reached.

"It was a very good discussion," Kintop said. "I am very proud of those teachers and impressed. It was definitely a collaboration — the true definition of a collaboration."

The Board approved the new schedules by a unanimous vote, and they go into effect for the 2016-17 school year.

Kintop said the Board considered the salaries of surrounding districts, including Duluth, when creating the new schedules.

Under Superior’s previous master’s degree pay schedule, Duluth teachers earned significantly more than their peers in Wisconsin.

According to the 2015-16 master’s pay schedules for both districts, Duluth teachers earned $64,349 more than their Superior counterparts over the first 15 years on the job. With the new changes to Superior’s schedule, the difference is now only $2,244. A teacher in Duluth will earn $69,268 after 15 years of service, while a Superior teacher will earn $68,700.

"It’s hard because you’re not really comparing apples to apples and oranges to oranges," Kintop said. "You try to be competitive, which in this state right now is very, very hard. We’re losing teachers."

In Wisconsin, Kintop said, both school boards and public sector unions are restricted in negotiations by current law.

"The only thing we can negotiate under state law is up to that CPI (Consumer Price Index)," Kintop said. "This year it was 0.12 percent. I think that was the equivalent of $68 per teacher. That’s what we’re allowed to go up to."

To give teachers a salary increase above the 0.12 percent limit, the school district would have needed an operational referendum.

Instead, the School Board chose to restructure teacher pay schedules, an item not restricted under Act 10.

"The Board could have said, ‘Here’s the CPI,’ and that would have been $68 per person," Sims said. "We’re very grateful that they not only invited us to the table, but that they provided a respectable pay raise and salary schedule."

Superior’s new master’s and bachelor’s schedules both shorten the amount of time needed to reach the top of the pay scale. Previously, the master’s schedule was stretched over 15 years and the bachelor’s schedule spanned 14 years. Now both top out at 13 years.

On the new bachelor’s schedule, step increases for the first seven years are the same or $1 lower. Steps in years 8-13 have increased anywhere from $36 to $1,318. The top salary is $658 higher than under the old schedule.

Superior’s master’s schedule was completely reworked. Teachers now advance to a higher wage more quickly, and step increases are uniform. Top pay is $691 more than under the previous schedule.

"It helps the district because we can plan financially better from year to year," Kintop said. "The old steps, there was some where … all of a sudden one step is like $4,000. It’s hard to plan when you get a big group of teachers in that huge step. You can’t plan from year to year, so this evens it out a little bit."

The new master’s schedule increases by $2,100 every step. Under the old schedule, teachers saw a roughly $1,700 increase in the first ten steps. The increase then jumped to $3,767 between steps 11 and 12 and $5,347 between steps 12 and 13.

The new schedule eliminates the erratic jumps, but it also increases overall cost to the district.

To offset the cost, the negotiation committee reached a compromise in which teachers on the bachelor’s schedule are carried over to the new schedule laterally plus one year. Teacher on the master’s scale will be moved over laterally minus one year.

"The biggest challenge was, how do we transition our current teachers into the new schedule?" Sims said. "Overall, I think it’s not a completely clean transition, but it’s the best the district could do."

He added that teachers are extremely grateful they were invited to the table to negotiate, which the district has not been required to do since the passage of Act 10.

Note

The Superior school district froze teacher step increases in 2014-15 but reinstated them for the current school year. Thus, teachers are currently one year behind on Superior’s pay scale. … The 2016-17 school year will mark the first time the CPI is below one percent for Superior teachers. It was 1.62 for the current year and 1.46 the year before, according to the Wisconsin Association of School Boards.

Duluth vs. Superior

With its revamped pay schedules, the Superior school district is now on more equal footing with Duluth.

Using Superior’s outgoing master’s pay schedule, Duluth teachers earned $64,349 more than their Superior counterparts over the first 15 years on the job. With the new schedule, Superior trails by only $2,244 in total earnings.

The key difference is how quickly Superior teachers now advance in pay. Previously, Duluth teachers began with a salary about $1,000 above Superior’s. The gap grew to $4,000 by year seven and nearly $14,000 by year nine, when Duluth teachers reach the top of their pay schedule. Superior did not catch up to Duluth’s salary until year 15, then fell behind again in year 20.

The new bachelor’s pay scale also begins to put Superior more in line with Duluth.

Under the districts’ respective 2015-16 schedules, Superior teachers earned about $46,000 more in total wages over the first 15 years of employment. With the new schedules, the difference drops to $38,000.

However, by year 15 a Superior teacher with a bachelor’s degree earns $8,512 more annually than a Duluth teacher. The Duluth school district grants employees supplemental longevity pay — $900 after 15 years, an additional $800 after 20 years and $900 more after 25 — but those increases still leave Duluth’s top salary below Superior’s.

The Superior school district does not currently include longevity pay in its salary schedules.

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