Every Henderson teacher is getting a raise this year with some veteran teachers getting as much as a $5,400 bump.
The final vote approving the new compensation plan drew thunderous applause from the dozen or so teachers attending the called school board meeting. The meeting was also the first official board meeting in the district’s new central office, located in the former Chamberlain Elementary.
The significance was not lost on the board.
“It’s the first meeting in this new board room and we’re going to distribute $3 million in raises,” said Board President James Holmes. “It’s a fantastic day for all of us in the district. It’s a great time to be a Lion.”
Several teachers with more than 30 years of experience attended the meeting and expressed their gratitude following the vote.
“We were hoping that our years of service would be recognized as much as other levels,” said a smiling Camile Knight who is beginning her 35th year of teaching. “We see that it was and we are ecstatic.” Knight’s colleagues all echoed her sentiments.
Earlier in the meeting Superintendent Dr. Thurston Lamb explained to the board that House Bill 3, approved by the Texas Legislature in June, authorized new funding for school districts. However, he noted that exactly how much money each school district will eventually receive has remained uncertain as the state refines its funding formula.
“The template we use to estimate our funding has changed 16 times over the past weeks,” said Lamb. “But we think we have a pretty good idea now.”
According to Lamb, the district is projecting $4.6 million in additional revenue from the state for the 2019-2020 school year.
“The state only required 30 percent of the new money be used for salaries, Lamb told the board.
But because teachers are carrying the bulk of the work with the students in the classroom everyday, we are going to spend the bulk of the money on them.”
Lamb proposed spending nearly half of the total revenue increase, or $2 million, on raises for teachers, librarians, counselors and nurses. Another $1.1 million will go to raises for all other staff including approximately five percent for auxiliary staff and roughly three percent for administrative staff. It means that together, the district will spend two-thirds of the new money on raises.
Exactly how that money gets distributed and additional requirements from the state presented another challenge to the district.
According to Lamb, the district needed to bring all teacher salaries up to newly established state-required minimums. The minimum salaries are based on the number of years a teacher has taught. When comparing last year’s salaries with the new state minimums, Lamb found Henderson teachers with five years of experience or less were already above the minimum. However, teachers with five to 20 years of experience were all below the minimums. Teachers between the 10-year and 20-year marks had the largest difference. Many of those teachers were at least $4,000 below the new minimums. All teachers will now be paid at least $400, and many, $500, above the state requirements.
Lamb told the board he is changing how the district approaches the pay scale.
“There was this idea that if you front-loaded the pay scale, you would create more money for the teachers coming into the profession, they’ll come. But research has told us that’s still not happening. They still don’t come.”
Lamb said his strategy now is to focus on veteran teachers.
“Even if we attracted new teachers, we couldn’t get them to stay,” explained Lamb. “If given a choice, most principals prefer seasoned teachers. So we want to attract better teachers with better experience. By stacking the higher raises on years 10 to 25, we can attract those teachers. We’ll create a teaching force of veterans that are more seasoned instead of one needing a lot of training.”
In addition to the salary increases, teachers will also receive an additional $1,200 per year to help pay for health insurance premiums.
“We’re proposing to up our contribution from $225 per month to $325 per month,” said Lamb. We believe more people would take advantage of the insurance if it cost less. I know of only one other district in our area, which is offering more on the insurance. So, I think that’s a good thing for us.”
During the meeting, Lamb also announced that he is working on a couple of incentive programs that would reward teachers for maintaining good attendance and safety. He told the board he would bring those proposals back to the board in the coming weeks.