Steamboat schools focus on staffing as board of education crafts next budget

The Steamboat Springs School District adjusted school bus routes for the spring semester amid a shortage of bus drivers. School board members said Thursday, Jan. 13, that staffing will be a focus for the district in its next budget.
John F. RussellSteamboat Pilot & Today

The Steamboat Springs Board of Education signaled Thursday, Jan. 13, that the board wants to make staffing and retention a focus when putting together the district’s budget for next year.

In a workshop, school board members said they are concerned about staffing levels across the education field, as well as local child care and housing issues that have led to some prospective teachers turning down job offers.

“Getting applicants isn’t our problem,” said Superintendent Brad Meeks. “The bigger challenge for us, as was already mentioned before, is housing.”

The workshop was the first discussion among the board to start crafting the district’s next budget. However, putting an emphasis on staffing has been a common refrain from members since the start of the school year.

School board members said they want to consider increased compensation, rework the salary schedule and invest more in human resources and recruitment, among other options.

Board member Kelly Latterman said child care and housing seem to be a big reason why the district is losing staff. If the district can’t overcome these issues on its own, Latterman suggested the board consider approaching voters for support.

When it comes to recruiting, Craig said she fears the district is losing out on hiring experienced staff because only six years of experience is recognized by the current salary schedule. Meeks said some candidates turned down offers with the district last summer because of where they would have fallen on the salary schedule.

Board members also said they want to invest more to market these open positions, potentially even reworking the district’s website to aid both recruiting and usability. Meeks said he feels the district is getting strong candidates, but there may be more administrators can do.

When someone accepts a position, Director of Human Resources Katie Jacobs has been doing what she can to help them find housing and child care. To continue this, though, she needs more help.

“We’re going to have to increase the HR group — I can’t do it,” Jacobs said. “If we were to consider looking at housing as something we put in, that’s a full-time person themselves.”

When it comes to retaining staff, the board has emphasized increased pay and raised teachers’ wages 5.5% last year while moving the base pay to $45,000 per year. Steamboat Springs School District consistently ranks in the top 20 in Colorado for average teacher pay.

Board member Kim Brack said the district should also prioritize devoting more money to increase pay in certain hard-to-hire positions, such as paraprofessionals, where the district is currently short six full-time positions. Pointing to recent inflation figures near 7% in December, Brack said the board needs to be prepared to compensate for that.

“That’s quite a punch,” Brack said. “In my short time here, I’ve seen a lot of raises and bringing up that entry level salary and some bonuses, but I don’t think we’re quite there yet.”

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