During a virtual workshop meeting May 7, the SISD board of trustees discussed three possible compensation plans that would increase the district's starting teacher salary, which currently sits at $54,000 annually. By comparison, starting teacher salaries across the Greater Houston area range from $54,369 in Houston ISD to $58,000 in Goose Creek and Galena Park ISDs.
"When compared to the 15 other school districts across the Houston area, Spring ISD's starting teacher salary and the salaries for our teachers as the years of experience go up, [are] considerably lower than our surrounding districts, and we [ranked] No. 16 when compared to those other districts," SISD Chief Financial Officer Ann Westbrooks said during the meeting.
While SISD had made strides over the past decade to stay competitive with neighboring districts in compensation, trustee Justine Durant said House Bill 3, which included provisions to raise teacher salaries across the state, is one of the reasons SISD has fallen behind.
"When I first joined the board, we were one of the lower-paying districts, and over the years we actually climbed to the No. 1 in Region 4 until this recent House bill—this has knocked us back 13 years on the journey that we’ve been on and it was a tough journey to get our teachers where we wanted to get them," Durant said.
Likewise, board trustee and Assistant Secretary Winford Adams said he was concerned with the gap that currently exists between SISD's compensation for five-year teachers and that of neighboring districts. Currently, five-year teachers at SISD make $54,953 annually. By comparison, five-year teacher salaries across the Greater Houston area range from $55,162 annually in Houston ISD to $60,300 annually in Goose Creek ISD.
In hopes of becoming a more attractive option for new teachers and better retaining seasoned educators, Option 1 presented to the board would increase the district's starting teacher salary to $56,500 and provide a 2.5% general pay increase and equity/market adjustments for all staff at a total cost of $9.14 million.
Likewise, Option 2 would increase the district's starting teacher salary to $55,500 and provide a 2% general pay increase and equity/market adjustments for all staff at a total cost of $7.58 million.
Lastly, Option 3—a $5.65 million expenditure—would also increase the district's starting teacher salary to $55,500. However, the option would only provide a 2% general pay increase for classroom teachers, librarians, nurses, counselors and paraprofessionals. All other staff—including bus drivers, custodians, cafeteria workers, maintenance and operations personnel, information technology staff, principals and police officers—would receive a one-time $500 stipend.
Each option would take a hit on the district's fund balance at $6.69 million, $5.13 million and $3.21 million, respectively.
While the majority of the board and Superintendent Rodney Watson said they favored Option 1, they also voiced a desire to provide further salary increases in the coming year.
"I know that $9.1 million looks like a lot, but I think we're at a position now where we can do more," Durant said. "I think we can do more to ensure that we have the best qualified teachers in the classroom to support our students and our scholars' education. I would like to see us do more than even what we're looking at here."
While Adams said he too was in favor of going above and beyond for SISD staff, he added the ongoing coronavirus pandemic complicates this year's budget adoption process.
"There’s all this talk about how education might be changing and how the district might be changing, so it occurs to me that our bus fleet will look very different depending on how this pandemic plays out—whether that means we need a lot more bus drivers or a lot fewer bus drivers—that’s going to have some impact on whichever of these plans we select," Adams said. "So I just feel unprepared to make this decision."
While a compensation plan will not be selected until the board officially adopts a fiscal year 2020-21 budget in June, further budget discussions will continue to take place at board work sessions and meetings in the interim.