GONZALES — An education consultant is recommending the Ascension Parish School Board look at increasing teacher pay from between 1 percent and 4 percent to make the district more competitive with nearby school systems.

The board hired Byron Headrick, founder of the Alabama consulting firm LEAN Frog, earlier this year to review the school district's organizational setup and to analyze salary schedules.

At the board's meeting Tuesday, Headrick recommended the raise for teachers across all levels — bachelor's, master's, and master's plus 30 hours.

The annual starting salary for teachers in Ascension Parish is $43,683. Adjacent school districts that top that figure are Iberville at $49,706; St. James at $48,909; and St. John the Baptist at $44,118.

Headrick also recommended pay raises for specific positions, saying they are below comparative school system and industrial averages. Among those positions are school cafeteria manager, bus driver, plumber, paraprofessional and director secretary.

When comparisons are made of comparable school districts in the region, Ascension's salaries "are in line," Headrick said. "But when you look at local, surrounding parishes, you've got some competition." 

Superintendent David Alexander said he will be working with other staff members to "develop a plan moving forward to step this plan out."

He said he hopes to have recommendations based on Headrick's findings to the board by January.

Also on Monday, Alexander announced the principal of the new Bullion Primary School, which is under construction in Prairieville: Marguerite Ruiz Guillot, presently the assistant principal of St. Amant Primary, will be leading the new school, which is expected to open next school year.

The board also approved the apparent low bid of $24.4 million to Cangelosi Ward General Contractors of Baton Rouge for construction of the new Bluff Middle School.

Board members also recognized East Ascension High School for winning the Baton Rouge Area Football Officials Association's Sportsmanship Award, presenting Principal Traci McCorkle and Athletic Director Darnell Lee with the framed award.

School Board members closed Tuesday's meeting by saying their goodbyes to four-term board member Kerry Diez, who chose not to run for re-election for the District 4A seat this year because of work responsibilities. 

"I want to thank you for your years of service on this School Board," President Pat Russo said. 

"We've served together in this district for 16 years," said District 4B board member John Murphy. "I'm going to miss you." 

District 4A will be represented by Marty Bourgeois, who ran for the seat unopposed. 

Follow Ellyn Couvillion on Twitter, @EllynCouvillion.