Retaining and Attracting Staff

As Jeffco Schools begin this next Budgeting season, one of the great challenges that lie ahead of both district leadership and the board is how to find the dollars to keep and attract those experienced teachers in the 5-9 year range.

When the mill levy override 3A did not pass in November, it meant the district would be short $12.6 million, the dollars it had designated as a compensation placeholder, to attract and keep teachers and staff – so many of which we have already lost to our competition, neighboring metro districts. Unfortunately, while Jeffco did not pass the mill or bond, other districts with measures on the ballot did.

To give you some perspective of how competitive the market place is for teachers deemed skillful in the classroom (with 5 to 9+ years experience teaching) we’d like to share with you the same information the district’s Chief Human Resource Officer, Amy Weber, shared with the school board during their last meeting of 2016. We invite you to view the video from that meeting here:

http://www.coloradopols.com/diary/90361/jeffco-school-board-considers-new-direction-for-superintendent#sthash.tQcxno9b.dpbs
Begins at 1:29 into video

Good news:  Starting salaries for teachers are competitive. Jeffco raised its starting teacher salary in 2014 to $38k for teachers with a Bachelor’s degree and no experience.

Research shows, it takes 5-7 years to become a skillful teacher in the classroom.

What is Jeffco’s risk?

Ms. Weber’s concern is if teachers come here early in their career and do not stay, “all Jeffco does is train teachers for other districts.”   Ms. Weber went on to cite an example of a real teacher in Jeffco with 9 years experience who currently makes $58k.

Based on current salary schedules of neighboring metro districts, this same teacher can now increase their salary (almost overnight), simply by taking a job working for another school district.

Jeffco, $58K
Boulder, $75K
Cherry Creek, $60K
Littleton, $58K (approx.)
Adams 12, $62K
Denver, $65K

In Boulder, this same teacher can also reach the maximum of the schedule faster.

Boulder: max of schedule $85K in 6 years
Jeffco: max of schedule $82K in 20 years

What Ms. Weber sees as a challenge for the district:

What to tell Jeffco employees when staffing season opens up in March when jobs will be posted in Jeffco and other metro districts.   Jeffco will not know what we will get from the state in funding until after that time.

Again, Ms. Weber pointed out, without the $12.6 million that would have come from 3A, Jeffco needs to find $12-15M (in ongoing dollars) in advance of this staffing season “so our employees know what to expect.”

“What can we do with what we have to make a commitment to employees around compensation at the beginning of staffing season?

Because –

  • It helps employees know what they can expect and they can make a determination based on that commitment backed up by $’s as to whether they will stay in Jeffco.
  • If we are looking for $’s internally to the district, we will have people shifting around. We have to give staff every opportunity to find a spot where they can be successful and contribute to their job going forward.”

An additional challenge for Jeffco:

If the district would simply apply a salary raise across the board schedule it does nothing when hiring in the market place. We’re still last out of 5. Because limiting 5 years experience for what Jeffco credits incoming teachers is where Jeffco falls behind in the market place.

8 to 15 year teachers numbers are between 300-400 – these are the “Middle teachers” who got left behind when we went from Steps/Levels to Performance.

The district’s challenges go beyond this:

3A was across the board steps/levels.

If we fail to give a step there is a different hiring problem.

25% of JESPA (classified employees) people do not get a step because they are on an old portion of the schedule.

 

And yet there’s more –

As Ms. Weber pointed out, “it’s not just about steps or levels, but about Cost of Living Index. If we hire a teacher at $38K and the only thing we provide as a district is COLA – for a 20 year career, at the end of their career they are still making $38K (or the equivalent of) just advanced by 20 years.”

There is a 2.7% Cost Of Living in the Governor’s proposal. It takes a bus driver 40% of their income to cover their family with benefits. * The district already has an issue filling open positions for bus drivers (& and other classified staff).

 

The Average Cost of Living has gone up 2.5% since 2010. Jeffco has not given a COLA since 2009.

 

As you read through the information shared from the report to the Jeffco School Board, here are some points for further concern:

  • Forbes just published The 10 Best And Worst Master’s Degrees For Jobs Right Now where they listed Elementary Education as the No. 8 Worst Masters Degree: Early-career pay: $40,800; Mid-career pay: $55,100; Projected job growth: 7%.
  • The state of Colorado continues to experience a shortage of teachers. Chalkbeat, earlier this month, reported:   “An urgency to improve teaching and attract more people to the profession grew this year as schools and districts increasingly had trouble finding teachers for some jobs and debates continued about performance pay and how to increase teacher diversity.”
  • In their article, Chalkbeat cites a report by the Colorado Dept. of Education, 2016 LEGISLATIVE REPORT EDUCATOR PREPARATION REPORT AY2015-2016. In its report, the CDE closes with recommendations: “…the state urgently needs to increase the number of individuals interested in pursuing a career in education. Accordingly, it is recommended that higher education institutions, Colorado state agencies, non-profit entities and local school districts begin to develop a plan of action that addresses the systemic issues causing and related to the teacher shortage impacting all regions of the state. “

What does it mean for Jeffco’s future ability to attract and maintain the best teaching talent when the district ranks near the bottom in competing with metro school districts for teachers now, and the state acknowledges the challenge of a statewide shortage now of teachers, state universities cite a decline in students signing up for teaching degrees, and even Forbes lists an Elementary Education Masters Degree in its “Worse” category?

 

Not only are we not supporting the staff serving public education, we are doing a terrible job of supporting the education of our children as a nation, state, and county.

Support Jeffco Kids!

Support Colorado Kids!

Support ALL Kids!

 

How can you help? Think globally but act locally! Sharing information and talking to others about these issues is the best way to make an impact.