The salary bump teachers in Pointe Coupee Parish have been angling for since April could happen in 2016.
But first, the district has to draft a five-year strategic plan that the School Board will have to sign off on before employees will get a salary boost, schools Superintendent Kevin Lemoine said.
“We’re going to address salaries as quickly as possible, but we have to bring other things up front first because there are other areas we must overcome besides just employee salaries,” Lemoine said.
Lemoine said the district will spend the first part of 2016 rallying community stakeholders, School Board members, district and school-level administrators, teachers and parents to form three committees. Each of the committees will be tasked with addressing specific topics, which will be included in the five-year strategic plan.
The committees will focus on instructional academics, learning support and management within the district, Lemoine said.
“The management component will address the financial stability and future stability of our school district,” Lemoine said. “Part of that committee will be looking at employee salaries and our facilities … and establish goals on where we want to be in five years.”
A group of teachers from Livonia High, the district’s lone high school, in April pressured the School Board to increase teachers’ salaries. They argued the district was having trouble retaining teachers and recruiting skilled educators to the parish because they earn less than teachers in surrounding school systems.
The district hasn’t increased its salary scale for teachers in nearly a decade, school officials said.
Beginning teachers with no experience and a bachelor’s degree in Pointe Coupee Parish earn $38,392 a year, which is lower than what a majority of the surrounding parishes pay their starting teachers.
First-year teachers earn $47,024 annually in Iberville, $42,733 in West Baton Rouge and $44,972 in West Feliciana parishes.
There are only two parishes where annual salaries for first-time teachers are less than Pointe Coupee: St. Landry and Avoyelles where teachers earn $38,000 and $36,160 respectively.
The lower salary schedule for Pointe Coupee teachers has been pinpointed by faculty and staff as one of the driving forces behind the district’s high turnover rate.
Since 2010, the school system has had to hire nearly 200 teachers because of the high turnover, according to personnel records.
And according to a report tracking the district’s teacher attrition, the parish hasn’t been replacing some of those openings for the past five years.
In the 2011-12 school year Pointe Coupee failed to replace 12 percent of its teaching staff that left the district; 19 percent the following year; 21 percent in the 2013-14 school term; 24 percent in 2014-15; and 14 percent in the 2015-16 school year, according to district data.
“We understand that our teacher salary fell below many of the surrounding parishes,” said School Board president Frank Aguillard. “We have to find some type of way to get them in the same ballpark as the surrounding parishes.”
Aguillard says there is some financial maneuvering the board can do to make the raises happen, but it’s looking for some direction from Lemoine’s planning committees.
The superintendent has committee meetings scheduled throughout January to draft the five-year plan he hopes will be presented to the School Board in early February.
“When all is said and done, the public has to determine if they feel the same way we feel,” Aguillard said.
Follow Terry Jones on Twitter @tjonesreporter.