Teacher pay in Steamboat not as hot an issue as it as at state level | SteamboatToday.com

Teacher pay in Steamboat not as hot an issue as it as at state level

Tom Ross

Plans for addressing the overcrowding at Steamboat's schools start with the Strawberry Park campus.
John F. Russell

Average teacher salaries at selected school districts

The Colorado Department of Education reports the following “average” teacher salaries in comparable mountain communities as well as in a couple of the larger districts in Colorado, and in two smaller, Routt County school districts.

Aspen $58,972, Telluride $58,403, Summit $56,733, Cherry Creek $71,711, Boulder $75,220, Hayden $51,325, Soroco $40,078

Salary scales at Hayden, South Routt Schools

Hayden: Hayden Superintendent Christy Sinner said the district hopes to have 2018-19 salaries finalized by the middle of May. The district, she said, remains committed to continuing to pay the full cost of health, dental and vision coverage for its employees.

South Routt: The Soroco School Board was intent in early September of 2017 on asking voters in the district to approve a 10-year mill levy override that would have raised $250,000 annually to make the district’s salary schedule more competitive.

Teachers salaries at Soroco begin at $33,200 and rise to $58,00 for faculty members with a master's degree and 25 years of experience near the top of the scale.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Even as a handful of teachers from the Steamboat Springs School District traveled to the Colorado State Capitol this week to urge the state legislature to increase public school funding, annual teacher salary negotiations here have reached a consensus that aren’t reflective of the tension in Denver.

At the conclusion of a collaborative bargaining process that began in the fall, 84 percent of teachers and non-teaching Steamboat Springs School District staff voted April 13 in favor of a compensation agreement that sets pay increases. The school board unanimously approved the 2018-2019 salary schedule on Monday.

“It really is a collaborative  process,” said Carol Harris, Steamboat Springs Education Association president and Strawberry Park Elementary School kindergarten teacher and longtime president of the Steamboat Springs Education Association. “If we didn’t have the SSEA, we would have no voice at the table. We do work together (with the administration) in the best interest of all. A lot of people think it’s focused on salary. Our main concern is our students.”

Teachers in Steamboat will see a 3.5-percent pay increase. As an example, a teacher who was hired in advance of the 2017-2018 school year, who has a master’s degree and six years of experience, would see their annual salary increase from $48,058 to $49,740.

Classified staff — custodians, bus drivers, clerical workers, paraprofessionals and the district’s network support engineer for example — will receive a 5-percent pay increase across most of salary schedule. Those classified employees at the top of the range will see a 2.5-percent pay increase.

As they did last year, school district employees will contribute to the cost of their health benefits in 2018-19.

Teachers urge more state funding

The focus was different in Denver on Monday, when Steamboat School District teachers Deirdre Boyd and Jenny Gabriel Shea met with State Rep. Dylan Roberts D-Eagle County as part of the Colorado Education Association’s Lobby Day. There, teachers from Boulder to Englewood sought to impress upon their state leaders that the legislature needs to increase support of teacher salaries and education and shore up the financial condition of the public employee pension plan, known as PERA.

The Colorado Education Association claims that when adjusted for inflation, the salaries of educators in the state have had their pay cut by more than 17 percent.

Reaching consensus at home

The collaborative bargaining team, which also includes School Finance Director Mark Rydberg and Human Resources Director Katie Jacobs, visits each of the school buildings to present the compensation package to both categories of staff members.

“If staff voted it down, it would not have made it to the school board,” Harris said.

Rydberg confirmed that in his view, teachers and staff in the Steamboat approach the annual compensation and benefits negotiations with an understanding of the needs of the district as a whole.

“We’ve got a very educated group of co-workers, who understand both the small and big picture from the district’s point” of view, Rydberg said. “They understand where our revenue comes from.”

Superintendent Brad Meeks said negotiations have become streamlined over the last decade with the refinement of the collaborative process. 

“My first year here, we needed 10 full-day meetings. Now, we do it in two full days and a half-day meeting,” Meeks said. “There’s consistency in the room.”

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1.

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