Committee urges an increased teacher supplement

By Shelby Harrell | Jan 09, 2017
Photo by: Shelby Harrell The Haywood County Board of Education is pictured during its January work session.

In November, a committee of 13 people sat in a circle at Haywood County School's central office with one question on their mind — “How do we retain our current teaching staff and show appreciation?”

This “Retaining and Recruitment Committee” was formed by the Haywood County Board of Education last fall after more than two dozen teachers left Haywood County Schools.

The committee, made up of teachers, principals, school officials and Haywood County leaders, was charged with exploring ways to increase the teacher supplemental pay, as well as recruit staff and retain Haywood's current teachers.

Supplement pay is a percentage of a teacher’s base pay that is added to the state salary amount and financed by local taxpayers. Haywood County hasn’t increased its supplement for teachers since 2008, and it hasn't gone unnoticed.

The teacher supplement issue resurfaced this year after Jason Heinz, the human resources director for Haywood County Schools, reported that the school system had lost 28 of its teachers last summer —  and more than half of them were veteran teachers with more than 15 years experience.

In addition, many of those teachers had met or exceeded growth in the classroom, which means that they are considered proficient or higher performing by the school’s evaluation standards.

As a result, the committee sat down to brainstorm what the school could do to rectify the issue and prevent it from happening in the future.

It only took three meetings before the committee determined that most of the teachers were relocating to Buncombe County because of its higher teacher supplement pay.

Playing catch up

Unsure if supplement pay was the sole issue, the committee asked some of its teachers in the group to talk to some of the teachers who left.

After talking with several former teachers, Noal Castater, a teacher from Waynesville Middle, and Nanette Renegar, a teacher from Clyde Elementary, both found that many of "Haywood's has-beens" cited a higher teaching supplement as a reason for leaving.

In addition, Renegar and Castater talked to Haywood's current teachers to get additional feedback.

“Of the 50 teachers Noal Castater spoke with, 49 of them said they would stay for a higher supplement,” Superintendent Anne Garrett told the school board during its January work session. “It was unanimous that we needed to do something about the supplement. The committee concluded that we should see what other counties and LEA’s (Local Education Agencies) are doing to see what we could do about that.”

Currently, Haywood County offers a teacher supplement of up to 5 percent of the state salary for its certified teachers. Teachers who have worked for 0-19 years receive 4.5 percent, those who have been a teacher for 20-24 years receive 4.75 percent and teachers with 25 years or more receive 5 percent.

"When you're going from 0-19 years in the same supplement, it's just not equitable,” Garrett said.

Buncombe County Schools currently provides a supplement of 8.5 percent for its newest teachers. The most experienced teachers with 30 or more years in the classroom will receive a 16 percent supplement. The majority of those leaving Haywood for Buncombe will have supplemental pay in the 13 percent range, school officials said.

Buncombe County provided its schools with an additional $5 million to put toward teacher supplements last year, which is how the school is able to afford the higher supplements.

Haywood County’s non-certified personnel within the school system, which include everyone from cafeteria to clerical staff, receive a 2 percent supplement and that has remained the same.

Haywood County already offers other incentives that help retain its teachers, including lower class size, paying for teacher training and offering mentoring for beginning teachers.

"The teachers who leave Haywood County are probably the best trained teachers you could have," Garrett said, adding that the school spends $130,000 per year on teacher training.

Finding the funding

Haywood County Schools currently receive about $14.1 million in local funds that pays for additional teachers, programs and instructional support. That is the pool of money used to cover teacher supplements, as well. Garrett said the school system currently spends about $1.8 million per year for teacher supplements alone.

Now that the committee has determined that a supplement increase would help retain its teachers, it is up to the board of education to look within its resources to determine the best method for raising the supplement.

“We've got some very difficult decisions coming about,” Garrett told the school board at the work session. “We've got to decide, in our budget, is there a better way of doing business? We've been looking at Buncombe to see what they are doing.”

Garrett said the challenge would be finding a way to use available local funds to increase the supplement that doesn't force the school to cut teaching positions or instructional supply money — if that's even possible.

“We’re trying to find the resources right now. What we are trying to do next year is come up with some kind of formula and reinstate what we had to take this year,” Garrett said, referring to this year's cuts in the budget that affected assistant coach positions, band and chorus, among others. “Next year we would like reinstate that and come up with a better supplement."

While the school board has not yet approved anything, Garrett proposed a supplement increase goal for next year.

The supplement goal, if it is approved, would offer a supplement pay of up to 7 percent, based on years of teaching experience. This means that teachers with four years of experience or less will start out with a 4.5 percent supplement, but those who have 20 years experience more will receive a 7 percent supplement.

The supplement goal is still lower than Buncombe, which is currently between 8 and 13 percent, but Garrett said the proposed idea was more attainable for the school system.

“We could start out at 8 percent and go up to 13, but our class sizes would be maxed out and you'd be cutting teachers to do that,” Garrett said.

If the supplement increase is approved, Garrett estimates that it would cost the school between $435,000-$450,000.

However, the plan for coming up with funding for that is still in the works, Garrett said.

The Retaining and Recruitment Committee members included school board member Jim Harley Francis, Jake Robinson with Champion Credit Union, Tuscola principal Travis Collins, the 2016-17 Teacher of the Year Nanette Renegar, Waynesville Middle School’s teacher of the year Noal Castater, Pisgah High School’s Teacher of the Year Harold Shepard, Jill Barker, director of Federal Programs/ AIG/Title 1, Bethel Middle School Principal Shawn Parris, lead teacher Jill Mann from North Canton Elementary School. Heinz and Garrett will serve as co-chairmen of the committee.

In addition, Haywood County Board of Commissioners Kirk Kirkpatrick and Bill Upton served on the committee.