GC VILLAGE — After a series of proposals, counter-proposals and analyses of the school district budget, the Grand Canyon School Board approved an across-the-board raise of 3.1 percent for teachers Thursday night.
"We were very happy to see the board listening and supporting us," said Margaret Gearman, Grand Canyon teacher who was at Thursday’s salary schedule work session and school board vote. The board voted 3-0 for the raise (Chuck Wahler and Bess Foster absent), which included a base salary increase from $21,635 to $22,000 per year.
The decision to give the teachers the 3.1-percent raise apparently did not come easy. Gearman said teachers met with school administration earlier in the week and they came up with a proposal of raising the base salary to $23,000 with a 2.75 percent raise across the board. Two weeks ago, teachers came out of a work session confident that their 3.2-percent raise and $22,000 base would be acceptable.
"The staff was 100 percent united on not supporting the administration’s new proposal," Gearman said. "We even had two of the lowest-paid teachers who would have received more money ... openly voice their support for the 3.2."
After the May 1 work session, teachers had an immediate meeting to decide what route to take. The 3.1 and $22,000 was acceptable, Gearman said, because it reached the goal of helping long-term teachers get up to a more appropriate salary.
Gearman said school administration felt teachers as a whole were losing because the majority of the staff is on the lower end of the salary scale. She added that if there are available monies next year, the base could be increased more with no problem.
Dale Fitzner, superintendent, was out of town over the weekend and Monday and could not be reached for comment.
"The board was really good about listening to every teacher who had a concern," Gearman said. "No teachers were angry, they were angry about the last time (a previously approved salary schedule). The board was very sympathetic."
Thursday’s work session went on for about 90 minutes and then the board went into open meeting mode for the vote.
Gearman said the 3.2-percent raise teachers were striving for would have been nice, but the accepted salary schedule was only one-tenth of a percent off that figure.
Still, the raises for teachers may not be as attractive as at first glance. Insurance costs continue to rise and Gearman said she expects the school board to be looking at that issue, adding that a large percentage of teachers actually get better benefits through their spouses.
The teacher raise was funded by 20 percent of the Proposition 301 money, which is estimated to have an impact of $120,000 on the Grand Canyon district. Another 40 percent of the Prop 301 money can be used, but is optional for salaries or programs and there had been a proposal to use half of that 40 percent for raises.