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Students Supporting Teachers

In this file photo, Gretchen Ebers, 7, holds a sign calling for drivers on Highway 180 to support public education  during a #RedforEd walk-in protest by teachers before the start of the school day at Sechrist Elementary School earlier this month.

Flagstaff Unified School District, its teachers, administrators and staff think they have all of the kinks worked out of a compensation package that includes Gov. Doug Ducey’s teacher raise approved by the governing board last week.

The FUSD Governing Board voted three to one in favor of a compensation package recommended by the district’s negotiations committee. Boardmember Carole Gilmore voted against the recommendation on how to divide up the raise but voted for the salary addendums that included the raises in teacher contracts. Gilmore was not immediately available Wednesday afternoon.

Flagstaff Education Association President Derek Born said there was disagreement among the FUSD board members, some teachers and staff members about administrators getting a larger raise per person than the teachers or staff because of their higher salaries.

There was also a discussion around how a “teacher” is defined, said Boardmember Kara Kelty. Gov. Ducey had left that definition up to school districts.

Born was part of the negotiation committee and said the committee at first tried to give an equal percentage increase to staff, teachers and administrators. But some members of the committee felt that wasn’t fair since administrators would end up getting a larger monetary increase because their salaries were larger than many teachers. Others felt that administrators shouldn’t get anything because they weren’t involved in the #RedforEd movement that generated the raise.

The committee determined that not giving administrators a raise would not be fair, because they also saw their pay frozen during the Great Recession and it would be bad for morale, Born said. Besides, dividing up the money that would have gone to raises for administration would only increase the raise teachers and staff would get from 10 percent to 11 percent.

However, giving administrators a 10 percent increase didn’t seem fair to the teachers and staff that were part of the #RedforEd movement and who have a much lower pay scale, he said. The committee unanimously decided to give administrators a smaller raise in order to make sure that staff and teachers received a full 10 percent increase. That calculated out to around a 7.5 percent increase in pay for administrators and a 10 percent increase for teachers and staff. Those raises also include increases in pay from the district for inflation, an increase in students in the district and about a 3 percent raise the district is looking at giving the teachers and staff in 2019.

The committee also recommended increasing the starting salary of a teacher at FUSD from about $35,000 to $39,000 and an additional teacher development day.

Kelty and Born pointed out that another misunderstanding that was cleared up at the board meeting was that the administration group includes more than just principals and vice principals. It also includes department and division heads and supervisors in some staff positions, Kelty said.

These employees have more responsibilities than average staff, so they don’t really fit in the staff pay section but they’re not really in charge of running a school, said FUSD spokesperson Karin Eberhard. The district plans to create a separate category for these employees in the future.

Born said each group -- administration, teachers and staff -- would decide how to divide up their portion of the money within their group. For example, teachers decided to divide  their 10 percent raise into a flat dollar amount of about $5,001 per teacher instead of a percentage raise. This meant each teacher would get the same amount of money, making it a bigger percentage for a starting teacher than a veteran.

In comparison, administration will get a flat payout of about $6,750 per administrator based on the 7.5 percent increase in payroll, Kelty said. There originally was a math error where the board was told that administrators would receive a flat rate of around $8,000, but that has been corrected to the $6,750 figure.

Kelty said she voted for the committee’s recommendation because they had unanimously supported it and had worked hard on a solution. The district also wanted to get the details of new compensation out before the end of the contract year so that teachers could make a decision on whether to stay with the district or not.

Kelty said the board may revisit the salary and raise discussion at a future public meeting.

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The reporter can be reached at sadams@azdailysun.com or (928)556-2253.

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Education/Business Reporter

Suzanne writes about education and business. She covers the local school district, charter schools and Northern Arizona University. She also writes the Sunday business features.

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