District, teachers agree to 3.2-percent salary increase, return of salary schedule
The De Soto USD 232 Board of Education approved Monday a one-year teacher contract that will reinstate a salary schedule and give all returning teachers a salary increase for the 2004-2005 school year.
Superintendent Sharon Zoellner said teachers voted to ratify the provisional contract last week. Following the Board's approval, contracts will be readied for teachers to sign into effect this week.
"We hope that teachers will have contracts in their hands Wednesday," Zoellner said.
Zoellner said the district's budget for teacher salaries increased 3.2 percent from last year.
Within those dollars, teachers will receive increases of various amounts dependent on their place in the schedule, she said.
Individual teachers' salary increases will range from 1.6 to 5.4 percent.
The base pay for teachers in 2004-2005 will be $31,494.
Zoellner said the district had not used a salary schedule -- a grid based on teachers' years of experience and level of education -- for several years.
Reinstating the intricate hierarchy took time, delaying the negotiations past their normal late-spring wrap-up, Zoellner said.
The state's delay in assigning school funds this year also contributed to the recently approved agreement.
"We kind of kept waiting to see if they were going to do anything, and they never did," said Ed Wilcox, Lexington Trails Middle School teacher and president of the De Soto Teachers' Association.
Wilcox said he was glad to be through with the process but wished teachers could be better compensated for long, late hours of out-of-classroom work.
"There are a lot of expectations of teachers that are time-consuming," he said. "I think teachers need a bit larger increase in pay."
Wilcox and teachers met with district representatives throughout the negotiating process. Board discussions regarding the subject were in closed sessions.
The two sides reached a tentative agreement in July, Zoellner said, but teachers were not mobilized to officially vote on the contract until they reported for work last week.
Zoellner said the contract did not add new benefits but that teachers already received health, disability and life insurance assistance from the district.
Last year's agreement provided De Soto teachers a 3-percent across-the-board pay increase while increasing the district's base pay 1.5 percent to $30,694.
That contract followed a June 2001 agreement that increased teacher salaries 8 percent in both 2001-2002 and 2002-2003.