Board approves pay hikes
Fayetteville teachers receive boost to $45,000 per year
FAYETTEVILLE — Beginning teacher pay in the School District is set to rise above $45,000 a year, following a 6-0 School Board vote Thursday night.
Pay raises approved for teachers, hourly employees and district administrators are subject to a vote of all of the district’s nearly 1,500 employees, as required by state law, Superintendent Matthew Wendt said.
School Board President Justin Eichmann said, “I’m happy we can provide it.”
Wendt recommended a $3,000 increase to base salaries for all certified teaching staff and a new wage salary schedule and an average 3.5 percent raise for classified staff, including bus drivers, cooks, custodians and administrative assistants.
The superintendent also asked for the enough money to provide a 3.5 percent pay increase for all administrators, though raises for administrators will vary and will be based on performance, Wendt said.
“Performance will drive administrator salaries in Fayetteville School District,” Wendt said. “I’m a big believer in performance. I’m a big believer in setting goals. When those goals are met, I’m a big believer we ought to reward them financially.”
Concerns about pay has ranked as one of the top issues for staff since Wendt became superintendent in July 2016, he said. The proposals involved the work of the district’s personnel policies committees for classified staff and for certified staff.”
“Finding a teacher is a competitive process,” Wendt said. “Fayetteville is not a stepping stone. We’re a destination. We ought to act like a destination. Part of that is the salary and wage benefit for our employees.”
The raises approved would be in addition to the annual “step” increases in pay teachers receive each year for gains in experience and education. The board previously approved raises to the salary schedule in 2008 and 2015.
The increase will take the salary for a beginning teacher with a bachelor’s degree and no experience from $42,310 to $45,310, Wendt said. The top pay for a teacher with a doctorate and 30 years of experience would increase from $71,176 to $74,176.
Fayetteville is the fourth largest district in Benton and Washington counties. Annual pay for teachers in Fayetteville has been several thousand dollars less than what teachers have been paid in Bentonville, Rogers and Springdale.
Teacher salaries have been an ongoing topic of conversation with questions about when the district would get closer to the salaries of the other large Northwest Arkansas districts, said Claire Garrett, who was president of the Personnel Policies Committee for certified staff during the 2016-17 school year.
“That’s a huge step toward getting us closer to them,” said Garrett, who is no longer on the Personnel Policies Committee since becoming an assistant principal at Root Elementary School.
Garrett, who was part of a team overseeing special education programs in schools, chooses to work in Fayetteville because the district is a good fit for her. The pay is a greater consideration for others, she said.
“We’re showing that we’re trying to get there,” she said. “It helps recruit the best and that’s what we want. We want the best teachers teaching our kids.”
The Personnel Policies Committee for classified staff spent hours developing a new salary schedule that will be based on hourly rates instead of annual pay, said Christine Wilken, president of the committee.
The new salary schedule provides more pay as hourly employees earn certifications or receive additional training.
“It values our employees,” Wilken said. “It makes them feel like they want to do better.”
Pay increases will total $8 million for the 2017-18, Wendt has said. The additional raises approved Thursday will total $3.6 million, with $2.2 million needed for increases for teachers, according to information from the district.
Laura Amos, a third-grade teacher at Asbell Elementary School, arranges books Thursday in her classroom in Fayetteville. Amos taught fourth grade at Grace Hill Elementary School in Rogers last year.
Kristin Fusco, a second-grade teacher at Asbell Elementary School, pins up a calendar Thursday in her classroom in Fayetteville. Fusco was accompanied by her son Sam, 8, as she did the work.