New plan hikes pay for district teachers

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BELOIT - The School District of Beloit Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday night for a compensation plan that increases teacher salaries, with an additional annual cost of about $1.3 million.

As part of the plan, all teachers with a satisfactory evaluation will receive at least a $1,250 annual pay increase. The starting teacher salary in the district will increase from $38,000 to $43,000.

The district is working with the Beloit Education Association so professional development training will be included in their annual increase in addition to a satisfactory evaluation.

Schools officials said a similar model is used in Janesville and Milton.

"We are in a teacher shortage crisis and the School District of Beloit wants the best of the best. We believe compensation competitive with area districts is necessary to attract and retain quality staff," said Interim Superintendent Tony Bosco.

The total budgetary impact of the increase is estimated to be $1.3 million. Despite the increase, Bosco said when the preliminary budget is presented to the board in June it will be balanced, but he did not specify where cuts might come to accommodate higher salary costs.

The compensation plan was created in closed session. Charles said the board voted to go into closed session under 19.85 (1)(e) of the Wisconsin Open Meetings law because there were bargaining, economic and strategy issues that the board had to discuss.

The board also voted 6-1 to form a planning committee to look into the option of reorganizing the district's committee structure. Vice President David Wilson voted against it. Larsen, Megan Miller and Board President Pam Charles will serve on the committee.

Larsen had proposed having three committees in the district - planning, oversight and governance. The district currently has five standing board committees including fiscal, student, staff, infrastructure and communications. Larsen said the new committee structure will save time and be more efficient.

However, Wilson said he didn't like not having a student and staff committee. He said the board went to its committee structure for a reason, and it's not a good idea to change it now.

The board voted unanimously for first reading to have the president serve no more than two consecutive years at a time. The item will come before the full board at the June business meeting for second reading. Charles said it helps build capacity among board members so they could be president.

"We need to build leadership on the board and have more than one person who is capable of being president. It would build good relationships with the superintendent and board members," Charles said.

The board also voted unanimously for first reading a policy change whereby the district would have two business meetings a month. That also will come before the full board at the June business meeting. Currently the board has one business meeting and a variety of special meetings. The two meetings a month on the second and fourth Tuesday, would be in the boardroom and be televised, giving community members an opportunity to speak to the board and create predictability with the community and be more transparent.

At Tuesday evening's earlier student meeting, Vice President David Wilson moved approval to renew the Roy Chapman Andrews Academy's (RCAA) charter contract. The motion failed for lack of a second, according to Larsen. Ultimately the full board will have to approve or deny the school's charter. Roy Chapman Andrews Academy is a project-based learning charter school housed within Beloit Memorial High School with 38 students, in sixth through twelfth grade. Students complete their education through in-depth projects designed around their own interests. It opened in 2007-2008.

It's not the first time the school was in threat of closure. In May of 2017, administration had recommended the closure of RCAA due to declining enrollment and cost savings. In March 2017 it had 29 students. However, after pleas from staff and students to keep it open, the board voted to reject administration's recommendation to close it. Advocates had said the school had been a safe haven for pupils who didn't thrive in the traditional academic environment.

Board member John Wong said he wanted more information on the program. He said it has 38 students, down from 65 students three to four years ago. He said his concern is about the effectiveness, efficiency and cost effectiveness of the program. Wong noted the projected budget for RCAA is $371,000.

Wong said he's also concerned about the marketing of the program and its long-term plan.

"The numbers right now raise a lot of red flags to me. Is the program truly effective and doing what it was intended to do from day one?" Wong said.

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