For the second consecutive year, the Pointe Coupee Parish School Board had to freeze the salaries of the school system’s employees, a move officials say will save $330,000 in the district’s 2012-13 fiscal year budget.
But the board’s recent decision has some members fearing the school district will continue to lose quality teachers to neighboring parishes.
“With surrounding parishes paying more, you’ll continue to lose employees,” board member Brandon Bergeron said. “To be competitive, we have to get this pay freeze lifted. Morale is going to continue to decline.”
At its June 28 meeting, the board approved salary freezes for employees at the 2010-11 step rate. The district pays starting teachers $38,392 annually.
Bergeron said the school district lost several teachers this year to the West Feliciana School District, which pays its teachers $7,000 to $8,000 more per year than the Pointe Coupee rate.
“It’s already tough enough to compete with the difference in pay scale,” Bergeron said. “It just gets to be too much of a separation. That’s why I challenged the Finance Department to look at ways to do some cuts because we need to lift this pay freeze.”
The school district’s chief financial officer, Stephen Langlois, told the board at its last meeting that it could address the issue during discussions of the new salary schedule the state has mandated parish and municipal school districts adopt by the end of the year.
Langlois was referring to the recently approved legislative overhaul of public schools that will force districts to rate teachers as “ineffective” to “highly effective,” based on annual evaluations.
The changes also allow school district officials to revise the salary schedules for their employees based on varying factors such as teacher effectiveness, demand by subject and the locations of schools.
“We’ll have to get together and set up a base salary based on what the board wants approved,” Langlois said.
School Superintendent Linda D’Amico said she’s sure morale may be down among employees, but doesn’t know much else the district can do in the meantime since the district’s income is not increasing but it has to deal with steadily rising costs.
“I haven’t seen morale down in those that are dedicated and understand it’s something we have to do rather than cutting jobs,” she said.
In May, the board unanimously approved the administration’s request to post a reduction in force notice in case layoffs became necessary as planning loomed for the 2012-13 budget that went into effect July 1.
“We’re hoping we don’t have to use it,” D’Amico said.
D’Amico said Pointe Coupee loses teachers annually to West Feliciana Parish schools, but pay isn’t the only factor. The superintendent said Pointe Coupee just doesn’t have the local financial support other parishes have to offer.
“The district gets 16.96 mills in local support; that’s low for our area,” she said.
D’Amico added the district does have several incentive programs to help teachers supplement their annual income.
Teachers at TAP schools can receive between $500 to $5,500 in incentive pay for educational gains their students make during the school year, D’Amico said.
And for those teachers who aren’t at TAP schools, D’Amico said, the board offers a $100,000 bonus fund that is divided among certified personnel at schools that meet annual performance goals.
The TAP system, according to the state Education Department’s website, “is a comprehensive strategy to boost teacher effectiveness through opportunities for career advancement, professional growth, performance evaluation, and competitive compensation.”