EBR School Board considering employee pay increases

The East Baton Rouge School Board on Thursday advanced a proposal to increase pay for seven categories of employees, including cafeteria workers and bus drivers, much as the board increased pay levels for some teachers last summer.

The same motion also moved forward a related proposal to give modest “demand stipends” to teachers who agree to transfer from their current school to a lower-performing school.

The vote was 8-2, with board members Connie Bernard and Jill Dyason voting no, and board member Randy Lamana and David Tatman absent. Bernard and Dyason unsuccessfully sought to put off the item until the board begins debating its 2014-15 general operating budget next month.

The board will consider adopting the proposed pay increases when it holds its regular meeting on April 17.

Superintendent Bernard Taylor on Thursday unveiled new proposed salary schedules not just for bus drivers and cafeteria workers. The school system approved new salary schedules for teachers in August, a move required by a 2012 state law.

The latest salary schedules affect not only bus drivers and cafeteria workers, but also school administrators, administrative support, clerical staff and paraprofessionals, ROTC coordinators and technology workers. They would raise pay ranging from $113 to $269 in 2014-15, and then $300 annual step increases after that. The new schedules would cost an estimated $1.9 million more a year.

Bus drivers showed up in force Thursday to press for higher pay, as well as for ways to improve student discipline on buses.

Norvel Blackburn, who’s driven school buses for seven years, said drivers see all the ills of society, with the violence and hunger that children experience in their neighborhoods finding its way onto the school bus. He said he often brings food with him on the bus at his own expense.

“There’s plenty of kids who get on the bus and they haven’t eaten the night before, they have eaten the night before that and they haven’t eaten the night before that,” Blackburn said.

Board member Bernard said she’s sympathetic and thinks employees deserve more money, but said she doesn’t want to make decisions in isolation from other budget questions.

The “demand stipends” are aimed to persuade teachers to move from their current schools to low-performing schools, paying teachers $500 if they make the switch.

Part of the proposal is that if a low-performing school gains 10 points on its school performance score, all employees at school would get a bump, ranging from $200 to $5,000 a year. Teachers could get $2,500 a year.

Carnell Washington, president of the East Baton Rouge Federation of Teachers, said he wonders if any schools can make a 10-point gain in the state’s changing school accountability system. He suggested that schools that improve a letter grade should get that money.

Editor's note: This story was changed on Friday, April 4, to correct the first reference to the category of schools teacher can transfer to and receive a “demand stipend."