Roaring Fork public school teachers get pay raise | PostIndependent.com

Roaring Fork public school teachers get pay raise

In this April 2018 file photo, Roaring Fork School District board members lead group discussions with teachers outside Sopris Elementary School to discuss education funding and teacher pay issues.
Post Independent file

Teachers at public schools from Glenwood Springs to Basalt will get a higher-than-average pay raise this year.

The Roaring Fork Schools Board of Education approved a salary increase for teachers Wednesday, in an effort to make the district more competitive for new hires and more sustainable for current teachers.

The pay raise applies to teachers at regular public schools throughout the district, as well the district charter Carbondale Community School.

RFSD lags behind many other districts in the state, but the salary increase puts teacher pay more in line with comparable Colorado school districts identified by the RFSD’s Interest-Based Bargaining (IBB) group.

The pay raises average about a 7.1 percent increase from the 2017-18 school year, and will be applied retroactively for the entire current academic calendar.

That means teachers will get a large paycheck in February with back pay for September through January. In March, the salary will adjust to the new monthly amount, district officials explained.

The pay increase is larger than in previous years, but there is still more work to be done, RFSD Superintendent Rob Stein said in an interview.

“We’re working very hard to make every possible effort to increase compensation to our teachers,” Stein said. He pointed to the $1,200 bonuses last year made possible by one-time state grants, and efforts to build affordable staff housing in Basalt — the latest in a line of teacher housing efforts throughout the district.

“We don’t feel that we’re done yet, it’s just that this is what we’ve been able to do with the identified dollars through the state funding formula,” Stein said.

The district is somewhat an outlier in negotiating and approving pay raises in the winter, months after the school year has started. Many districts negotiate based on projections of state funding, but RFSD waits until it’s clear what money will be coming into the district.

“We are using current-year money for the negotiations,” said Shannon Pelland, chief finance officer for the district.

RFSD gave a 1.8 percent salary bump in September, and then negotiated a 5.2 percent pay raise based on the state’s increase in per-pupil funding for the district.

The updated pay for RFSD teachers and staff is close to the average pay for 10 similar school districts in the state. The IBB has identified districts similar in geography, cost of living, size and with resort-centered economies.

The average salary for public school teachers in those districts is just $76 higher than RFSD’s new pay schedule for first-year teachers with bachelor’s degrees.

Stein points out that comparing RFSD salaries to similar districts is useful, but the schools from Basalt to Glenwood Springs still compete with the Front Range when it comes to hiring.

“There may be people with a 303 area code who might be looking at jobs on the Front Range and up here, and asking, ‘What would it be like with the cost of living at these salaries?’” Stein said.

The starting salary for a first-year RFSD teacher with a bachelor’s degree under the new schedule is $38,500, while Littleton teachers at the same level start at $40,843.

Denver teachers at the same level — those who are not part of the complex, results-based Professional Compensation program which was the root of the teacher strikes this week — start at $42,790.

Pelland said most feedback from teachers has been positive, but there is still a lot of frustration about the disparity with the Front Range schools.

“They’re happy that this is a larger increase than they usually see, but still we have a lot of work to do in Colorado,” Pelland said.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this article said the Roaring Fork School District Board of Education approved salary raises for district teachers and staff. The salary increase applies only to the districts “certified staff,” which consists mainly of teachers and certain employees with professional certifications.

tphippen@postindependent.com


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