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Big Story of the Week: Ladue Launches Discussion on Pay, Benefits & Evaluations

Certified and Classified positions will all come under scrutiny going forward.

The Ladue School Board members had a lively and spirited discussion Monday night about classified and support staff salary options and the teachers compensation system and review policy as it stands today.

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If members of the community were not there, and there was just two advocate parents, two career teachers and one administrator in the audience, this is what was missed.

As the city manager of a nearby community often says: “discussions like this are the first step...and there are a thousand steps before everything gets settled.”

A journey begins with the first of a thousand steps

That’s pretty much where the issue of pay and benefits and compensation review for Ladue stands these days. As Susan Dielmann, director of communications for the district said: “We are just beginning. We have a lot of discussions ahead, and a long way to go.”

That didn’t prevent the seven board members from joining in a highly-spirited back and forth and lively give and take.

Probably no one revealed more than lifetime, now retired political science teacher and now board member Jeff Kopolow.

This is what Koplow had to say: “My relationship with the district dates back to 1966. We’ve never really had a merit pay system for the district. In those days, we called pay raises a step system: step 1, step 2, step 3. The names have changed but everything is pretty much the same these days,” said Kopolow.

Kopolow is not a big fan of the evaluation process--administrators evaluating teachers. “First, if the administrator doesn’t personally like the teacher, the evaluation won’t be very good."

Secondly, several speakers expressed the view that some teachers feel they are not evaluated properly, because they didn’t do exactly what administrators wanted them to do.

“This is a system that tends to reward mediocre teachers,” said Kopolow.

Naturally, after serving a lengthy career in education, Kopolow would be expected to defend the rights of certified teachers (the professional teaching staff.)

Several speakers broached the subject of equality in pay and benefits between certified staff (teachers) and classified staff (support personnel).

Paying for experience

In Ladue, a repair technician with 39 years in the district makes $50,793.60 annually. A maintenance mechanic with 30 years makes $68,972.80 and a maintenance supervisor with 22 years makes $54,704.00.

And this is partially where the rub lies. Naturally, Ladue, like any other district wants highly experienced and dedicated career employees in the class room and elsewhere. And with experience and dedication comes higher salaries and benefits.

With lower assessments and falling revenues, the financial screws are tightening.

Comparing districts

Ladue uses comparative figures with like-minded neighboring school districts, the likes of Clayton, Kirkwood, Parkway, Pattonville, Webster Groves and others. Ladue finds itself pretty much in the middle of the pack in most comparative categories.

Much of the conjecture between board members lies between deciding if Ladue should pay more than other districts and how it shows in comparison to pay scales in the private sector.

Member weighs in

“We need to pay the employees for what gets us the most value and is best for the entire district,” said Andy Bressler.

Ken Smith noted that when veteran teachers get higher salaries, their percentages of increases slow down.

One way to reduce district expenses would be to give all new hires, regardless of previous experiences, salaries closer to the bottom of the scale.

With the Ladue School district, the discussion is not how big the pay pie should be, rather it is how do divide the pie that exists. Surely, there will be more lively discussions before anything is decided.

James Baer (Editor) October 14, 2012 at 10:51 AM
For those who may not have thought the statement was clear. It goes like this: Retired Ladue School teacher, now board member Jeff Kopolow has always put the priority of his students first and foremost. That might not have been as clear as it should have been stated in this article, but that is the known fact, now and forever.

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