Teacher pay raises

Joycelyn Drozd, a fifth grade teacher at Mission Valley Elementary School, walks around her class while her students work on an activity in February. The district approved teacher pay raises during a special called meeting on Tuesday.

Victoria school district teachers will see pay raises this school year, but maintaining them relies on a voter approved tax rate election.

The Victoria school board approved a $2,100 increase to all teachers during a special called meeting on Tuesday.

The pay increase is a 4% increase from the midpoint of district pay. This means teachers who are paid below the midpoint will see a more than 4% increase of their current salary while teachers who make more than the midpoint will see less than a 4% increase of their current salary, said Randy Meyer, the district’s chief financial officer.

The raises account for about $4 million, Meyer said.

“We want to recognize, that as an administration, that the 4% is a very aggressive amount to try to start catching up with the market but to us it’s not enough,” he said. “We want to continue to look for opportunity to pay our teachers more.”

The pay increase impacts all teachers except those who are new to the profession and new to the district, Meyer said. The district offers a competitive salary for first time teachers regionally, according to a study done by the Texas Associations of School Boards.

The TASB study showed that the Victoria school district is competitive in pay for the first five years of a teacher’s career, but salaries taper. It reported that Victoria’s average salary is $49,710 and the market average is $53,422.

Salaries and payroll make up about 85% of the district’s budget.

The pay raises come from available money out of the budget, but they can’t be sustained without a voter approved tax rate election, or VATRE, Superintendent Quintin Shepherd said.

“We’re kind of counting on passing a VATRE, which would come in this year, and that would then offset the salary increase,” Shepherd said during Tuesday’s meeting.

A bond planning task force proposed a 3-cent VATRE to the board during Tuesday’s meeting. The VATRE, if approved by the board, will be placed on the Nov. 2 ballot. It would go to teacher and staff pay raises.

If the community does not approve the VATRE, the district will use federal funds to backfill the salary increase, but that can only last for about two years, Shepherd said. After that, cuts will need to be made.

“We will be cutting programs and staff because we’ll have to make up a $4-5 million difference in our budget, and we have two years to do it,” Shepherd said. “If the VATRE does not pass, we immediately work on massive budget reductions.”

Board members were excited to see teacher pay raises in the 2021-22 compensation plan.

Board member Bret Baldwin said this last year has been extraordinary with COVID-19, and the teachers have gone well beyond the call of duty.

“I have to tell you I’m very pleased with what I see,” he said. “I think it’s well deserved.”

Baldwin encouraged the administration to continue looking for creative ways to compensate and show appreciation for the district’s employees.

Cynthia Wade, a fourth grade teacher at Crain Elementary School, said most teachers put in more hours than any of their contracts require, and they put a lot of heart into their work.

“Teachers work hard,” she said about the pay increase. “We’re in it more for the outcome than we are the income.”

Wade, an English teacher, said she received pay stipends a couple years ago, but a pay increase is guaranteed and creates a stable income. She also thinks it will help retain teachers.

In recent years, she has heard other teachers mention leaving because of the pay, she said.

Wade hopes community members show their support for teachers and students by approving a VATRE. She said the district needs both quality teachers and high quality programs.

She appreciates all the community support she already receives, Wade said.

“We love our kids. We love their kids,” she said. “We would do anything for them. We hope they can see our heart in that.”

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Samantha Douty is the education reporter at the Victoria Advocate. She grew up in Corpus Christi and graduated from UT-Arlington with a bachelor's in journalism.

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