Shawnee Mission board approves 2018-19 teachers’ contract

The board of education voted to approve a 2018-19 contract for teachers Monday. File photo.

The Shawnee Mission Board of Education on Monday approved a teachers contract for the 2018-19 school year three days after the membership of the National Education Association – Shawnee Mission voted to ratify the agreement.

Negotiating teams from the teachers union and the district administration came to tentative terms on the contract August 9 after several negotiating sessions. The parties were at odds for weeks over the compensation package for teachers, with the union requesting first a 2 percent and then a 1 percent across-the-board raise.

District negotiators maintained that Shawnee Mission did not have the financial resources to commit to such a raise, saying that step-and-column movement along the salary schedule would already cost an additional $2 million from the year before, and that any additional increase would threaten needed reserve funds.

The teachers said they believed the district’s own financial statements showed it could safely dip into operating accounts to fund an across-the-board raise for teachers this year.

At the final negotiating session, the teachers agreed to a one-time stipend for teachers who would not have seen any pay increase from step-and-column movement along the salary schedule otherwise. The stipends will amount to 1 percent of those teachers’ salaries. The cost to fund the one-time stipend for those approximately 800 teachers is around $600,000.

A 1 percent across-the-board raise for teachers would have cost about $1.7 million.

To be ratified by the union, the contract needed the support of more than 50 percent of voting members. NEA-Shawnee Mission president Linda Sieck said approximately two-third of members who participated voted in favor of ratification.

SM Northwest representative Patty Mach, whose son is employed as a teacher in the district, recused herself from the vote on the contract Monday. The other six members voted unanimously to approve it.

The salary schedule approved by the board for this school year maintains Shawnee Mission as one of the top-paying districts in the metro area — though many teachers in lower-paying districts like Blue Valley and Olathe have lighter required teaching loads.

Some teachers scrutinizing administrator pay

In the days leading up to Monday’s vote, some teachers expressed frustration with the outcome of the negotiations, saying they believed the district had an opportunity to address waning morale among some staff by signaling the new school board and superintendent’s support for teachers. Brian Quick, a teacher at Rising Star Elementary, had voiced some of those concerns publicly to the board during a meeting in July.

And teachers have been circulating an article posted by the Kansas Policy Institute, a conservative advocacy group that has often been critical of spending on K-12 education, which makes the case that Shawnee Mission has invested in administrators but not in teachers.

But Shawnee Mission central office administrators take issue with KPI’s conclusion that of a $5.6 million year-over-year increase in payroll, “a measly $467,000 was spent on teachers.”

Those figures are misleading, said Shawnee Mission Chief Communications Officer David Smith. Of note, Smith pointed out, when the district outsourced its substitute teaching services last year, it moved the approximately $2.6 million in costs associated with substitutes out of the instructional line of the district’s budget.

“Of course, the district still pays for substitutes, just not out of the instructional line,” Smith said.

Moreover, because the make up of staff included in the the “teachers” category changes from year to year — with veteran teachers at the top of the salary schedule retiring and young teachers at the bottom of the salary schedule coming on — it’s difficult to use year-over-year comparisons.

“Within each individual category, the ‘class’ is not the same from year to year,” Smith said of comparisons of staff pay levels. “Every year, experienced teachers (who tend to be at the top of the salary schedule) retire, and are replaced by younger teachers, who are much lower down on the salary schedule. Thus, it is possible to give the entire class a raise, and spend less money in the class.”

The KPI report says that contract documents obtained via an open records request show a handful of central office administrators already making six-figure salaries as well as building level principals had seen sizable raises. (We’re putting in our own open records request for all district administrator salaries for this school year).

Smith said the district could not reproduce the numbers KPI used it its analysis.

“In the principal line, we did add an administrative position for Arrowhead, along with an administrative intern position,” Smith said. “Other than that, I am unable to recreate [KPI’s] numbers.”