Ladue School district parents, Kelly Waller, Ashley J. Margulis, and Jill Moore, took turns Monday questioning the 3.75 percent pay raises to be given to certified staff and administrators.
The collective speakers at this week's board meeting felt monies could be spent in other areas like reducing the size of classrooms. They visibly showed their disappointment while taking turns at the podium. Each said they were strong supporters of Prop 1 but probably wouldn’t be in four more years when the district comes back with another request for additional funds.
Moore questioned if Ladue teachers were being paid the same as comparable districts.
Dr. Jason Buckner, assistant superintendent for business and finance set the record straight. “Over the past four years, Pattonville has raised salaries of their teachers 11 percent while Ladue has been able to raise them 9 percent.”
Further, Buckner compared administrative salaries of the chief financial officers. His salary is $125,000 while the Pattonville CFO’s is $159,000.
The speakers one by one urged the board to table salary increases (collectively $1.4 million of the $7 million raised through Prop 1), some 17 percent of the overall budget.”
The board declined. “I personally conducted some 20 public meetings where we discussed salary increases should the tax levy pass,” said Dr. Buckner. “Further, all the details of pay increases is in board documents on the district’s website.”
Board member Andy Bresler stated that Ladue must remain competitive as not to be outdone by neighboring districts. It was stated that several Ladue teachers and administrators have moved on to neighboring districts, mentioning higher salaries as the reason for leaving. Brentwood has hired away several Ladue teachers and administrators recently.
“I know the 3.75 percent (raise) is above the mark up, but this is not about making up for past increases (missed); this is about staying competitive, and that’s why I am voting for it,” said Bresler. “We need to be good stewards of the district’s money,” said Bresler.
Veteran board member Ken Smith concurred. “Salaries must be commensurate with districts we are comparable with. We run the risk of loosing too many good teachers to other districts,” he claimed.
Board member Jeff Koplow was appalled at the criticism of pay raises for administrators. Kopolow was a history and political science teacher at the high school for nearly 40 years.”Good administrators found methods to keep out of my way so I could concentrate on teaching (students.) I know the economy is tough but we have to maintain good staff morale. This staff has been battered pretty much the past couple of years,” said Kopolow.
The administrators got zero raises last year, and with increased insurance premiums, they took financial steps backwards. At the same time, the administration is down one and one half employees, so the overall distribution pool is no larger than last year.
Another board member Stacy Washington showed her support. “Its not like we decided just tonight to give (3.75 percent) raises, we have been discussing this for a very long time. The board voted unanimously to approve raises and approved a plan to provide specific stipends to teachers who lead after-school activities such as clubs and sports through out the district.
In other business, the board voted 7-0 to approve a contract with Chartwell’s for $1.2 million to provide food services for the district going forward. The district is required by law to bid food service contracts every five years. Chartwell’s has been the company of record since 1997. Chartwell’s bid was accepted over newcomers Aramark and Arbor Managment, Inc.
Starting salaries for new hires was set at $39,635.00 next year with unanimous approval by the board.
Also, Learning Lab teacher Sarah Cockerline was honored by the school board with an Excellence in Teaching award.