Teachers raise approved

February 17, 1999|By BRUCE HAMILTON

In an effort to keep and attract teachers, the Washington County Board of Education decided Tuesday to give a system-wide salary increase.

The move means all the county's public school teachers will get a 1.5-percent pay raise immediately. Other School Board employees get a 1-percent raise.

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"I look at this as an investment in the future of this school system," School Board member Doris J. Nipps said in a morning work session.

The raises are retroactive, meaning they are effective as of this year's hire date. A teacher who was employed in July 1998 will get more back pay than one hired in December.


The increases will cost a total of $1,076,801, according to Human Resources Director Phil Ray. The money is already in this year's budget, he said.

Most of it will come from "turnover credit," or savings created essentially by "senior teachers retiring and younger, less-experienced teachers replacing them," Ray said.

Last year, 80 teachers were expected to retire and approximately 130 did, creating a payroll surplus of more than $800,000, according to Ray.

He said an insurance rebate from the Maryland Association of Boards of Education will fund the remainder of the raises.

The increased pay improves Washington County's standing in a "threateningly competitive labor market," Ray said.

Higher paychecks await teachers in nearby jurisdictions and outside the state, making it hard for Washington County to hold onto them.

Locally, teachers' salaries generally rank near the bottom of Maryland's 23 counties and Baltimore City, according to Ray.

The "cohort adjustment," as the raise is called, changes that ranking among the county's cohorts, or state school districts.

For example, a teacher starting out with a bachelor's degree in Washington County makes $27,000, a salary ranked 20th in the 24 jurisdictions.

The adjustment brings that teacher's pay up to $27,405 and the rank to 16th.

The shift is less dramatic further up the pay scale. The raise changes the salary of a teacher with 10 years' experience from $32,595 to $33,804 but that rank moves from 20th to 19th.

One-third of Washington County's teachers have five years of experience or less, Ray said.

He believes the county has lost ground in the market for several years. The "cohort adjustment" is a way of reversing a trend, he said.

The adjustment boosts another pay increase already scheduled to take effect July 1. Last year, the Washington County Teachers Association negotiated a 4-percent increase, though not for all teachers.

Next year, those two raises compounded will cost nearly $4.6 million. That's the amount included in Superintendent of Schools Herman G. Bartlett's proposed fiscal year 2000 budget.

It is listed as the budget's fourth priority.

The School Board unanimously approved the raises Tuesday night.

The raises are in addition to the normal step increases granted automatically to teachers as they reach certain levels of experience.

Washington County Teachers Association President Sharon Chirgott expressed pleasure with the raise.

"Hot dog!" she said. "It's great that the money is there to support our competitiveness."

It's also welcome because it wasn't negotiated, she said. "It's especially nice because it comes without having to bicker about it across the table."

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