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11:10 PM Sat, Sept. 22nd

HUSD teachers highest paid in area

The Humboldt Unified School District's board made good on board President Craig Sorenson's promise to "make a decision to place us head and shoulders above everybody in the immediate area" in teacher salaries.

Culling money from a variety of sources, the board voted Tuesday night to raise teacher base salaries $2,907 – nearly $500 more than the amount teachers demanded – and making HUSD teachers the highest-paid in the area.

Coupled with Prop. 301 money from increased sales taxes, HUSD teacher pay at the highest levels can increase as much as $7,000, Sorenson said.

Last month teachers disdained the district's proposed $250 pay raise as "an insult" and "a slap in the face." More than a hundred teachers attended the April 10 public school board meeting, carrying protest signs and demanding that the board raise their base salary $2,450, in addition to the expected raise from Prop 301 money.

The board devoted nearly the entire meeting to listening to teachers' complaints and comments. Before adjourning, board member John Beck told the teachers, "This board will move in a direction you will not be ashamed of."

"At this point we know where we stand," Sorenson said. "I think you know what you can expect from your board."

After three weeks of study the board came back Tuesday night with a decision that, using Prop 301 money the law says must go toward teacher salaries, exceeds the teachers' demands.

The board decided the district will add to individual teacher base salaries:

• $750 from the district's Maintenance & Operations budget;

• $1,170 per teacher Prop 301 and trigger money;

• 20 percent of Prop 301 money ($850 per teacher);

• $137 from the state for an added school day.

Those four items applied to base salaries total $2,907 more than teachers asked for, and represent about a 13 percent raise to base pay. In addition, the board moved all teachers up one pay step, effectively increasing annual pay another $920, Sorenson said.

Superintendent Ron Maughan, who had recommended that the board raise teacher base salaries $250, was dubious about the long-term effect of the sharp increase in the salary schedule. As teachers complete further personal education and stay with the district, the district increases their salaries by multiplying upon the base salary.

"As you move across the schedule to teachers with higher degrees and greater longevity, the cost magnifies," he said. "That's why districts are always hesitant to make big increases to the base salaries."

Sorenson, however, said Maughan's proposed $250 raise was "overly conservative."

Teachers will receive another 40 percent of HUSD's allotted Prop 301 money – about $1,700 each – as an "annual teacher stipend" in two payments at Thanksgiving and in the spring. The board deliberately chose to keep the stipend separate from the salary.

"If the Legislature cuts it down (in the future), we don't want it to be part of the salary schedule," board member John Beck said.

Teachers can also earn approximately $1,700 more as "performance pay" from the remaining 40 percent of Prop 301 money. Combining the potential performance pay and the stipend with the board's pay raise for teachers brings the total to $7,227. Applied to the present $22,250 starting salary, that represents a pay increase of more than 32 percent.

By contrast, PUSD will raise its teacher base salaries by $228; neither the Chino Valley nor Mayer school districts are raising teacher salaries beyond what Prop 301 will provide. HUSD's new $25,157 starting salary will be the highest in the tri-cities area, exceeding the Prescott Unified School District's $23,071.

More than a hundred teachers and parents who packed the BMHS library for the meeting gave the school board a standing ovation after the announcement of the pay raises.

Teacher Norm McKeown said he was "pleased with the bottom line," but criticized the board's $750 taken from the M&O budget to raise base salary. Mc-Keown insisted the board only passed along to teachers $500 that is the 2 percent "inflation factor" the state provided to district M&O budgets for teacher salaries.

"The rest, the board came up with," he said.

Last month, however, Maughan said the state applies the 2 percent inflation factor increase to the entire M&O budget, from which the district pays teacher salaries.

The state does not earmark the inflation factor exclusively for teacher salaries, he said. CVUSD, for example, will not use any of its 2 percent increase for teacher salaries, according to CVUSD Superintendent Ron Minnick.

McKeown also accused the board of "taking $53,000 out of the pockets of teachers and handing it to principals."

The board set aside that Prop 301 money, representing $10 per student at each campus, for principals to use at their discretion.

"The intent of the (Prop 301) legislation is to give principals more autonomy to direct and guide their staff," Sorenson said. "They've gotten very little additional control, and that is really a gratuitous offer to the principals."