By Logan T. Carlson
For Hub City Times
MARSHFIELD — In an effort to hold onto its newest teachers while continuing to attract quality educators, the Marshfield School District is ready to introduce a new compensation model starting next school year.
As school districts in Wisconsin are now competing for top talent, much in the same way football teams are currently engaged in the free agent market, the district recognized the need to find a way to fix its current model that did not seem to adequately reward those new teachers to the district who decide to continue their careers in Marshfield.
District administrators and Marshfield School Board members spent the better part of eight months working on the new compensation model, meeting more than two-dozen times to develop a plan they hope will address the obstacles inherent in the salary schedule since Act 10 came into effect nearly four years ago.
“We’re not alone here in the attempt to try and find a good workable system for our staff,” said Pat Saucerman, the district’s director of business services. “Many school districts across the state of Wisconsin are dealing with the same issue, primarily because some of the unintended consequences of the post-Act 10 world.”
When Act 10 was signed into law, it became very difficult for teachers to receive any significant salary increases for either experience or for receiving an advanced degree. Annual increases are capped at the rate of inflation if teachers stay in the same district.
Under the pre-Act 10 pay scale, a brand new teacher to Marshfield would have received just under $59,000 in salary after six years if they completed a master’s degree in that time. That is not the case anymore, with that same teacher estimated to be receiving $47,400 under the current system, a difference of roughly $11,500.
However, nothing prevented teachers from receiving a more lucrative offer from another school district. This free agent market has caused bidding wars between districts for teachers in hard-to-fill positions such as technology education and science, especially among rural schools in the state.
A teacher with the same amount of experience coming into the Marshfield School District could earn more than one who has spent their entire career in the district.
“It makes it feel like experience outside the district is valued more than experience in the district,” said Preston Genett, a social studies teacher at Marshfield High School, during a meeting with School Board members and administrators in September.
Marshfield administrators said they feel the new model, which is set to be introduced to educators for the first time Monday, will help address the issues raised in that September meeting and really let teachers control their future compensation.
At the heart of the model is what administrators are calling “units” that teachers can earn by completing voluntary professional development, holding certain district leadership positions, or by completing a master’s degree or receiving a National Board Certification.
Each unit is worth an additional $50 in supplemental pay for teachers the following year. The amount of units a teacher can receive for professional development is capped at five per year.
Every 15 units a teacher earns will allow them to receive a flat percentage increase to their supplemental pay based off of their base salary in the following year. This percentage increase ranges from between 2 and 6 percent based on where the teacher falls on the district’s “step” for base wages.
“There has been a lot of work that has gone into (the system). There has been extensive research (staff) has done,” said Marlene Stueland, president of the Marshfield School Board and chair of the Employee Relations Committee that has been working on the new model since September. “It looks like a good plan. We are about right on the brink of what we think is a good plan, a final plan, a fair plan.”
The School Board is tentatively set to meet March 26 to vote on the final compensation model.