Current Spring ISD employees have the chance to receive a monetary bonus and two additional days off in the upcoming school year thanks to a package passed unanimously by trustees May 10.

The retention and hiring package will include $2,000 for all district employees—$1,000 to be received each semester the employee stays with the district in the 2022-23 school year—and two “wellness days,” according to a May 12 news release.

“What we're requesting here is that we extend that retention stipend to all employees,” SISD Chief Financial Officer Ann Westbrooks said. “And that is critical because we're seeing quite a bit of turnover across the board, not just with our teachers.”

The package also offers teachers the opportunity to receive a $2,000-$5,000 bonus—depending on how many years they have worked for the district—based on their Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System ratings and their students’ end-of-course exam or State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness scores.

On April 12, trustees approved a retention and incentive package that includes retention and hiring bonuses for educators who teach mandatory courses in the subjects of math, science, language arts and social studies. The package passed May 10 loosens the requirements for teachers to receive a bonus based on their teaching performance so 368 teachers will qualify instead of only 100, Westbrooks said.

Like the previous package, the May 10 retention incentives will be funded by grants from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief programs.

Employee raises

At trustees’ May 5 board workshop, trustees also discussed employee raises for the 2022-23 school year. For the 2021-22 school year, SISD placed 11th among 15 nearby districts for teacher pay, according to a May 5 presentation from Westbrooks. Some of the higher-paying districts for new teachers in the region are Galena Park, Alief, Humble and Klein ISDs.

Westbrooks presented two employee pay raise options at the meeting; Options A and B. While the district hopes to offer teacher raises in the upcoming school year, doing so will leave the district’s general fund with a $28 million deficit.

“As we've discussed over the last couple of board sessions, we're currently in a deficit in our general fund,” Westbrooks said May 5. “And that is largely a result of the loss of over 2,000 students due to the pandemic as well as we began budgeting a deficit in the 2021 school year so that we could remain competitive with our teacher salaries and our other employees within the district."

Initially, after reviewing Option A proposal May 5, trustees expressed concerns that teachers who have been with the district for more than five years would not receive high enough raises.

“I think the structure is inverted. ... It seems like the longer you work here, the lower reward you get for your loyalty,” board Vice President Winford Adams said May 5. “If I were a teacher in my 10th year here, I'd be looking to go somewhere else too based on the money. I think we have to figure out a way to flip this around.”

By May 10, when Westbrooks presented the options to trustees again, district leaders updated Option A to address the trustees' concerns, Westbrooks said. The new Option A proposal starts teacher salaries at $59,000 with 3%-4.6% pay increases for teachers depending on how long they have worked with SISD. Paraprofessionals and classified workers would receive raises of 3% under this proposal, while other staff would receive a 2% raise.

“The charge that we had from you all, the board, was to go back and bring for an option that would put more funds into our more tenured teachers and allow for a larger raise there,” Westbrooks said. “And so that's what this plan does.”

Option B has remained unchanged since May 5 and would offer teachers a starting salary of $60,000, while teacher raises would be offered between 4.5%-4.9% based on their tenure with the district. Paraprofessionals, classified workers and police officers would receive raises of 3% under this proposal, while other staff would receive a 2% raise.

Trustees did not take action on Option A or Option B on May 5 or May 10 and will consider adopting the 2022-23 budget in June.