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An Ohio-based consulting firm will spend the next several months probing whether East Baton Rouge Parish schools are paying their nearly 6,000 employees appropriately and to recommend ways to fix any problems they find.

The hiring of Experience Management Institute, approved Thursday night, comes as several neighboring school districts have voted to increase teacher pay, leapfrogging East Baton Rouge.

It also comes amid historic shortages of educators, locally and nationally.

On Thursday, there were still 140 vacancies, especially in high schools, for teachers and paraprofessionals in Baton Rouge public schools.

With little discussion, the School Board approved hiring Experience Management Institute at a cost of $89,000, funded by federal COVID relief money.

The vote was 5-1, with board member Dawn Collins voting no and Connie Bernard abstaining. Board members Tramelle Howard and Dadrius Lanus were absent.

Board watcher James Finney said the school system should get its personnel department in order — its director Daphne Donaldson retired earlier this month — or the money would go to waste.

“I think there is a lot of work to be done before this is a wise use of money,” Finney said.

The firm, which is based in suburban Columbus, Ohio, will conduct “a base pay review” covering 150 to 200 positions, analyzing and evaluating the worth of those jobs, sizing up the local and national job market, and then setting benchmarks.

It expects to finish its work by April.

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The last such employee compensation review, school officials say, was conducted in 2005 by The Segal Co. It cost about $100,000 — it was done before the 2007 exit of Central to form an independent school system. That review, a key priority of then new Superintendent Charlotte Placide, set the stage for a sizable employee pay bump in 2008, the last such across-the-board raise funded with local money.

Improving employee salaries is also an early priority of Superintendent Sito Narcisse, who took over in January. Narcisse also has spoken since his arrival about fixing inequities he sees in employee salaries, particularly among some female educators.

“Making sure we have equity is a big thing we want to do with this,” said Frank Chester, the district's chief operations officer.

Experience was one of several firms that submitted proposals. Previous clients include a handful of mid-size city school districts in Ohio as well as the charter school network Uncommon Schools. It lists no clients from Louisiana.

Chester said the school system recruits both locally and nationally and needs to be attractive at both levels.

“You want to make sure that your compensation is not just comparable, but competitive,” Chester said.

Starting teacher salary in East Baton Rouge is currently $46,300 a year.

Districts that have historically lagged in salaries, including Central, as well as Livingston and Pointe Coupee parishes, have all recently increased their pay. Also lifting their pay recently are Ascension and Iberville parishes.

Narcisse also is likely to increase pay for administrators. He’s brought in several top administrators, paying them all $130,000 a year, which was the highest salary in the districts when Narcisse arrived, beside his own $255,000 annual salary. Narcisse has also increased pay for several in-house administrators, whom he’s promoted.


Email Charles Lussier at clussier@theadvocate.com and follow him on Twitter, @Charles_Lussier.