By Larissa Copeland
Starting teachers in the Mustang School District will earn $2,000 more than first-year teachers did last year after the school board approved an agreement with the Mustang Education Association.
The decision came during an April 11 special meeting of the school board.
Under the new salary schedule, first-year certified Mustang teachers will start at $40,000 a year, compared to the 2018-19 base salary of $37,512.
Mark Webb, president of the Mustang Education Association, was part of the negotiation team.
Webb said the association didn’t know what to expect from the district in terms of an offer.
“It was a pleasant surprise,” he said. “Any time a district is making a commitment like that is a big deal.”
The education association has 375 members, but Webb said he hopes to see the numbers grow to 400. A separate group is in place for support staff.
Mustang Human Resources Director Chris Tobler said the decision to start base pay at $40,000 came from a combination of financial viability and a desire to be competitive among school districts.
“We are currently in a teacher shortage statewide,” Tobler said. “Due to the hard work of our school board, (Superintendent Charles) Bradley and his cabinet, and our partnership with the MEA, we were able to implement this raise. It will be great for retaining our current teachers and tremendous in recruiting new teachers to the district.”
That $40,000 baseline, Tobler said, is important.
“We really wanted to get to the $40,000 mark,” he said. “It was a very important number to us; we felt it would make us very desirable. We’re already one of the most desirable districts in the metro. It’s very intense right now among school districts looking for teachers, and we felt it would make us a viable and desirable place.”
Following an executive session that lasted about 90 minutes, four board members voted in favor of the agreement. Board President Jeff Landrith abstained, citing a lack of time for the board to analyze the new salary schedule.
Landrith added that he agreed that teachers deserve the increased salary.
In addition to setting a $40,000 salary base, the agreement also includes raises of $2,488 across the board for teachers. For example, a teacher with 10 years’ experience and a bachelor’s degree will make $45,268 beginning in the 2019-20 school year, compared to the 2018-19 salary of $42,7789.
Continued education in the form of a master’s or doctorate degree were also taken into consideration.
“This will definitely help recruit and retain new teachers,” Webb said. He pointed to a job fair held Friday, where signs noting the district’s $40,000 first-year pay were present on every table.
Tobler said he was pleased with the job fair’s turnout but noted that the district has been aggressive with early hiring this year.
Already, 45 certified positions have been filled for 2019-20.
“We posted openings much earlier than normal, to attract top candidates,” Tobler said.
The new agreement also recognizes out-of-state teaching experience, Webb said, which should prove to be a boon to teachers.
“The state says you have to take five, but now the district will honor all years (of experience),” Webb said. “For a bunch of my members, that’s going to be a really big jump in pay; some of them have 10, maybe close to 15 years’ experience. This was a big deal, to get what they got.”
“It’s huge,” Tobler said. “It’s not only going to positively affect our current staff, but it will also help recruitment.”
Educators also will see increased pay for the work they do outside the classroom.
A 1% raise was approved as part of the contract. This includes positions like the high school football coach, whose earnings will climb to $13,275 in 2019-20 from $12,375 in 2018-19.
Webb said the increase in duty pay will help keep Mustang competitive and help it attract and retain qualified staff.
“We’re not at the top of the pay scale (for duty pay) when we look at averages,” Webb said. “Now we’re in the middle, maybe closer to the upper third. Just this school year alone we’re hiring a new football coach, a new boy’s basketball coach … attracting the right people and being able to keep them is a big deal.”
Tobler emphasized the work of Bradley and his cabinet that led to the pay increase becoming a reality.
“They worked really hard on developing this and making it happen,” Tobler said. “We have some great teachers in Mustang, and just as important as recruiting is keeping them here.”