Round Rock ISD board punts on proposed raises for teachers, staff

The Round Rock ISD board of trustees met virtual on April 16 to discuss the 2020-21 staff compensation plan.
The Round Rock ISD board of trustees met virtual on April 16 to discuss the 2020-21 staff compensation plan.

The Round Rock ISD board of trustees met virtual on April 16 to discuss the 2020-21 staff compensation plan.

Round Rock ISD teachers and staff will have to wait to learn whether they will receive a raise for the 2020-21 school year, following a lack of board action April 16.

Members of the district’s administration alongside the Texas Association of School Boards recommended a 2% salary increase in an April 16 presentation. The increase, which also included salary adjustments for positions that were under market value, would have totaled approximately $8.7 million, or a 2.7% budget impact, according to staff’s presentation.

“The goal of these pay increases is to make sure you are keeping your pay as competitive as possible,” said Erin Kolecki, compensation and human resources consultant for the Texas Association of School Boards. “We agree that the 2% model does accomplish that.”

Instead of adopting the proposal recommended by district administration and the state board, a slim majority of school board members opted to postpone the vote, citing fears of the coronavirus’ impact on finances and funding.

“In the middle of so much uncertainty surrounding this virus and our economy, the only thing I’m certain of is that our resources have decreased, and they will continue to do so for the foreseeable future,” Trustee Cory Vessa said before voting to postpone a decision on salary increases.


Vessa initially requested a six-week extension for the gathering of additional data, until the board’s next regularly-scheduled meeting on May 28. Her motion was eventually amended to delay a decision on salaries until May 7, when RRISD will hold a special board meeting.

Trustee Chad Chadwell also voted for a postponement of the vote, saying he would prefer to first determine whether other area school districts would approve salary increases.

“The coronavirus is changing everything we had expected even two months ago,” Chadwell said. “My preference is we wait and see what is going on, get a little better perspective about what neighboring districts might do.”

Trustee Mason Moses took a differing stance, stating he would prefer RRISD be a leader in making salary decisions rather than a follower.

“As leaders of our community, our school district, it is our responsibility to provide some certainty,” Moses said. “Especially in these times, especially when it impacts kids. I think a 2% salary increase provides our staff some certainty, some comfort as we navigate these uncharted waters.”

Board president Amy Weir voted in favor of postponing the decision, saying she wanted to hear Gov. Greg Abbott’s April 17 press conference in which he is expected to detail a plan for reopening the economy.

“I’m truly, truly just struggling with having this conversation tonight,” Weir said. “I don’t feel like I’m at a place where I can add to our budget. I’m treating this like I would my home finances.”

Trustee Steve Math, who ultimately voted to postpone the decision about salary increases, expressed conflicted views throughout the three-hour discussion.

“I’m a very, very strong believer that you have to pay your employees at or above market value,” Math said. “That is a core belief of mine. Quite frankly, 2% is not an unreasonable ask, but the big elephant in the room is that we’re in the middle of this tremendous economic uncertainty and pandemic. I don’t know how it looks if we have record-high unemployment and we’re recommending an increase.”

Trustee Nikki Gonzales, who voted against a postponement, expressed frustration at delaying the decision.

“What are we waiting for?” she asked fellow board members. “I don’t understand waiting a few more weeks. There won’t be any new data. Nothing is going to change. Why can’t we be leaders and not followers?”

Superintendent Steve Flores acknowledge the troublesome timing of the salary increase request.

“It’s tough to give a budget presentation in these uncertain times,” Flores said. “We understand that some board members and others have concerns, given the unknown impact the global pandemic will have on our economy. But I want to remind our community that our funding for next year is not affected at this time by the current situation. We are in solid standing.”

While he said he supported the 2% raise for teachers and staff, Flores said he believed that to be a conservative increase and wished it could be even higher.

“I wish it could be more. It needs to be more for us to remain competitive, but we feel it is appropriate at this time,” Flores said. “This is not a move that will break Round Rock [ISD] for the future or the next biennium. But what we cannot afford to do is undermine our workforce and lose talent to neighboring districts.”

Kenneth Adix, RRISD chief financial officer, said that last year the board of trustees approved the biggest pay raise in district history. The salary bump allowed RRISD to move from “dead last” to fifth out of 11 Central Texas school districts, Adix said.

While salary adjustments have made the district more competitive locally, RRISD still fails to compete with peer districts in Dallas and Houston, Adix said.


The proposal that the board failed to vote on April 16 would have increased teachers’ starting salary to $50,000 and adjusted years 2-6 to alleviate compression.

Additional budget updates are expected in May and June, and the board is expected to formally adopt the 2020-21 budget June 18. Tax rate adoption is anticipated Sept. 17.

“For me, it is not about being competitive with other districts,” Gonzales said. “It is about treating our teachers as professionals. Teachers leave the profession of education every day because they cannot make ends meet. Our students and our teachers deserve better.”
By Taylor Jackson Buchanan
Taylor Buchanan joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2018 after completing a master of journalism degree from the University of Texas. She worked as the senior reporter for Community Impact's Southwest Austin edition and is now the editor for the company's flagship Round Rock/Pflugerville/Hutto edition.


MOST RECENT

electric grid
ERCOT board developing new emergency response measures, managing financial fallout from winter storm

An emergency meeting of an ERCOT advisory committee made up of independent advisers was convened March 5 after the resignations of several board and of ERCOT CEO Bill Magness. 

Cars wait their turn for a vaccine dose at the Texas Motor Speedway on Feb. 2. The hub was hosted by Denton County Public Health. (Sandra Sadek/Community Impact Newspaper)
Q&A: Texas doctor discusses first 3 months of vaccine distribution process

Texas is in its 12th week of statewide vaccine distribution, and an expansion of eligibility for vaccination could come later this spring.

For a third consecutive semester, Texas public school districts will not be penalized financially due to declining enrollment and attendance as a result of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, due to an extension of the hold-harmless guarantee, state leaders announced March 4. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Texas leaders ensure financial stability for public school districts through spring semester with hold-harmless extension

The guarantee also ensures that Texas school systems can retain their teachers for the 2020-21 school year for whom they originally budgeted.

In response to Gov. Greg Abbott's March 2 announcement that Texas' statewide mask mandate and COVID-19-related business restrictions will be lifted as of March 10, the Texas Education Agency released updated public health guidance March 3. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Updated Texas Education Agency guidance allows individual school boards to determine mask policies

"Under this updated guidance, a public school system's current practices on masks may continue unchanged. Local school boards have full authority to determine their local mask policy," the release reads.

H-E-B will continue to require employees to wear face masks until further notice. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
H-E-B to require employees, ask customers to be masked despite upcoming expiration of governor's mandate

H-E-B officials announced their employees and vendors would still be required to be masked while on the job, and customers would be encouraged to wear masks while in stores.

Snow covers I-45 in Houston during a winter storm that hit Texas the night of Feb. 14. (Shawn Arrajj/Community Impact Newspaper)
Legislators probe energy officials over power failures, lack of preparation heading into winter storm

The Texas Legislature held hearings Feb. 25 with energy companies including Oncor Electric Delivery and the Electric Reliability Council of Texas in response to last week’s historic winter storm, which left millions of Texans without electricity for days.

As many as 31 stores across nine states will be shuttered as Fry's Electronics shuts down due to market changes and the pandemic. (Courtesy Qygen, Wikimedia Commons)
Fry's Electronics calls it quits after nearly 36 years in business

As many as 31 stores across nine states will be shuttered as Fry's Electronics shuts down due to market changes and the pandemic.

A lone runner jogs on a snow-covered road in Austin. Transportation projects across the city were briefly paused due to Winter Storm Uri. (Jack Flagler/Community Impact Newspaper)
ERCOT: Texas power system was less than 5 minutes from collapse during winter storm

ERCOT's CEO offered details into what led to the massive blackouts that left millions of Texans in the cold last week.

cars on snowy road
Texas Disaster Declaration opens door to federal aid for losses sustained during winter storms

Individuals and businesses who sustained losses during the winter storm are eligible for federal assistance, according to a Texas Disaster Declaration approved

ERCOT president and chief executive Bill Magness (left) was joined by the electric grid manager's senior director of system operations Dan Woodfin on Feb. 19 for a briefing on the company's emergency operations. (Screenshot via ERCOT livestream)
ERCOT chief: 'We are completely back to normal operations' as of Feb. 19

Officials with the Texas electric grid manager also said they are preparing for state and federal reviews of this week's power outages.

H-E-B stores across Texas have limited store hours and placed purchase limits on some high-demand products due to ongoing severe winter weather, H-E-B officials announced Feb. 19. (Courtesy H-E-B)
H-E-B, Central Market limit store hours, product purchases due to severe winter weather

H-E-B stores across Texas have limited store hours and placed purchase limits on some high-demand products due to ongoing severe winter weather, H-E-B officials announced Feb. 19.

Gov. Greg Abbott provided updates on the state's emergency response efforts during a Feb. 18 press conference. (Screenshot of April 17 press conference)
Gov. Greg Abbott: Power restored to nearly 2M homes in past day; statewide aid efforts continuing

While power generation has been restored to serve most Texas residents, Abbott said state agencies remain focused on water and food distribution Feb. 18.