Board mulls changes to salary schedule

by nathan oster

Teachers in Big Horn County School District No. 3 may soon have a higher bar to overcome if they want to earn more through advancement on the district’s salary schedule.

The board of trustees on Tuesday night discussed, and in the end tabled, a proposal from their superintendent, Barry Bryant, that would have frozen the BA46 and BA 60 lanes on the schedule, effective Oct. 20, 2014.

The board will pick up the discussion in November.

Bryant, clearly, supports the change.  He noted that while the base for teacher pay in the school district ranks in the bottom half of all district’s statewide, teachers in Greybull make up for it over time.

Teachers are paid on a schedule that takes into account their years of service (vertical) and their education/training (horizontal). Bryant’s proposal dealt with the horizontal “lanes” — and in particular, the BA45 and BA60 lanes which sit between the BA30 and MA 15 lanes.

BA, it should be noted, denotes bachelor’s degree, while MA denotes master’s degrees.

Bryant said that when it comes to both the horizontal lanes and the vertical steps, the district pays its teachers well, in comparison to the rest of the state.  In fact, he said almost all districts have frozen or done away with the BA45 and BA60 lanes as a way of encouraging teachers to obtain master’s degrees in order to move past BA30 on the pay scale.

Bryant admitted that his proposal isn’t universally loved by the district’s teachers, noting that it’s probably 50/50.  One teacher who spoke against it was Ralph Wensky, who teaches industrial arts at the high school.

Wensky, who is coming up on the BA 45 lane, said he’d be negatively impacted. In his case, credits haven’t been awarded for a lot of the classes that he has taken, and for that reason, the BA 45 has seemed like “the carrot on the end of the stick.” With young children still at home, pursuing a master’s degree isn’t feasible at this time, he said, adding it would leave him stuck in a lane for the foreseeable future.

Trustee Jean Petty said she isn’t sold on the recommendation, noting that she has received some negative feedback from teachers.

Bryant said during the discussion that teachers would have until Oct. 20, 2014 to apply for horizontal movement on the pay scale for the BA45 and BA60 lanes.  After that time, those lanes would be frozen indefinitely.  The lanes would be removed from the pay scale altogether once the last person who had achieved them leaves the district.

“It definitely will make it harder for them to move horizontally,” he said.

Trustee Eddie Johnson raised the possibility of negotiating the matter with teachers at contract time, rather than simply approving it as a board action.  Bryant said he’d do that, if it was the board’s wish — but emphasized that it wouldn’t be his recommendation.

He emphasized that, “If we are expecting more rigor out of our kids, we should also expect more rigor out of our teachers.”

 

Personnel

The board signed off on two personnel moves, accepting the resignation of Justin Bernhardt, head football coach and summer weight room supervisor at GHS and hiring Marisela Castro to work in food service.

Bernhardt coached the GHS football team for two seasons, compiling a 3-5 record this fall.  His resignation was effective Nov. 4.

A timeline for filling the vacant position was discussed. Supt. Barry Bryant said he and GHS Principal Ty Flock have heard from some who think the position should opened, advertised and filled immediately. But Bryant said they would rather wait, since neither knows at this time which teachers might be leaving or who might be replacing them.  It’s possible, Bryant said, that a teacher the district hires might be qualified to coach football.

The timeline they propose calls for the position to be opened from Feb. 1-28, interviews to occur March 4 and for them to make a hiring recommendation to the board on March 11.

Trustee Steve Hoblit asked about what becomes of the current assistant coaches, wondering aloud if the new coach will want to have a say about who his assistant coaches are.  Trustee Dale Nuttall said he believes the head coach should have a say.

Flock suggested that the prudent course at this point would be to sit down with the current assistant coaches get their thoughts, something he plans to do in the coming days.

As for the food service position, Bryant said he was recommending Castro to replace Melanie Craft, but that he wanted her to be hired for 25 hours per week (five hours a day, five days a week) and on a temporary basis, ending when the current school year ends in May.

The board approved his recommendation.

In addition, it will be a non-benefited position, meaning no insurance benefits.  The district will be required, however, to pay her retirement benefits.

Bryant said recent changes like the addition of a-la-carte and lunches-to-go and a planned launch of a breakfast-to-go program after the first of the year are efforts to lure students back to the lunchroom.

“We’re trying to have a restaurant mentality,” he said.  “Like today, for example. Lunch wasn’t well attended.  Maybe we need to say when that happens, ‘It’s time to take that off the menu.’  Replace it with something else.”

Bryant said the job of a cook isn’t an easy one, especially when it comes to working within the nutritional guidelines established by the United State Department of Agriculture.

That said, if the changes don’t work, Bryant said he’d have no choice but to take action at the end of the year.  Last year, the district finished the year with a shortfall of around $132,000 in its food service budget.

It’s a problem throughout the county — just to a lesser degree.  Bryant said Big Horn County School District is running about $100,000 in the hole, District 2 slightly less than $100,000 and District 4 about $60,000.

One thing working against the district is the fact that it runs two kitchens. The elementary kitchen serves around 200 students each day, the secondary kitchen around 150.

 

In other business Tuesday night:

• The board honored Justin Howe and Mike Blissett as the district’s stakeholders of the month.  Howe was not present, but Blissett was.  Bryant praised Blissett, who is in his third year as a math teacher at the high school, for his work with Worland swimming program.

• Hanson Jordan was officially recognized as the district’s teacher of the year.  The award was worth $1,000 to Jordan, a math teacher at the middle school.

• Trustee Selena Brown announced plans for the Holidazzle celebration on Dec. 14 and encouraged the school district to participate in some way in the day’s festivities.

• Chairman Mike Meredith offered a salute to all of the teachers in the district. “Teachers are professionals, licensed by the state and they earn salaries,” he said. “They don’t get paid for all of the hours they put in.  Walk into a school any day.  You’ll find teachers there at 7 a.m., leaving at 5 p.m.  They are doing their darndest to educate the youth of this school district.”

• The board approved the home-school registration of two students, ages 8 and 6.

• In an attempt to get a jump on the hiring process, the board agreed to offer a stipend of $500 to any certified staff who notify the district in writing of their intent to resign or retire by Feb. 15 of each year.

Bryant, who made the recommendation, said it’s $500 well spend, in the sense that knowing early in the process gives the district a chance to quickly find a replacement.  When employees wait until April or May to announce, the district typically has a tougher time filling the position with a qualified applicant, Bryant said.

The stipend program will be implemented on a one-year trial basis

•The board approved multiple requests from certified staff to donate leave/vacation days to Diana Stephens, a classified employee in the district.

• The board gave first readings to several policy changes, including one related to personnel records and files that was recommended by the district’s attorney.  The change deals with the filing of medical records.

Another change closed a loophole that allowed both professional and support staff personnel to leave before the end of the year and take all of their leave for the same year before earning it.

One of the policies is a new one, dealing with blood-borne pathogens. It stemmed from the discovery that the district had a regulation, but no policy backing it up.

The final two policies dealt with wellness and homeless children, both of which were based on recommendations from the district’s attorney.

• In administrative reports, all three buildings reported dips in attendance at the recent parent-teacher conferences.  All three principals are also sifting through results of MAP testing, which were a mixed bag of positive and negative feedback for the district’s schools.

GMS Principal Scott McBride said his building ran conferences from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. — and discovered that the big rush occurred around 7 a.m., before most people headed to work.  Next time, conferences will likely be set between 11 and 7 p.m.  McBride added that the school fell short of its “Caught Being Good” goal, but is off to a good start in the second quarter.

Director of Special Services Lee Clucas said there are 85 students in the district presently receiving special services and that staff members have been brushing up on their training, particularly in the area of autism.

Bryant reported that progress is being made toward the installation of the modular classrooms, which are intended to ease the overcrowding at the elementary school.  On a town-related topic, he said the School Facilities Commission, while saying it’s possible, stopped short of actually recommending that the district sell land near the elementary school to the town, which was eyeing the area between the K-2 playground the tennis courts as a site for its swimming pool and/or splash pad.  Bryant said he was also encouraged by the district’s attorney to oppose a plan by Doug Youngerman, the town’s animal control officer, to develop a dog park in the same area between the playground and the tennis courts.

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