EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

April 3, 2013

City teachers may make over $100K

By Mark E. Vogler

---- — LAWRENCE — The best teachers in Lawrence Public Schools could make as much as $100,000-a-year under a proposed contract and professional compensation system unveiled yesterday by school officials.

“There is an opportunity for a teacher to make six figures, with the maximum salary being increased to $85,000 and additional compensation possible for other roles,” said Seth Racine, chief redesign officer for the school district.

The current maximum salary is $80,175 for a teacher with a doctorate and over 25 years of service and longevity, Racine noted.

“But under the compensation system that’s been proposed, great teachers will make substantially more in Lawrence. They will rise faster and make more over their careers. Great teachers after five years could make $85,000. Right now, a similar teacher with a masters degrees, would make $55,826. And that’s based on a teacher coming in with a masters degree and serving five years in the district,” he said.

The plan developed by Superintendent/Receiver Jeffrey C. Riley’s office features a career ladder in which “individuals will advance and be compensated based on their development and impact in the classroom,” according to Riley.

“It features higher starting and maximum salaries and much greater potential lifetime earnings than the current system of steps, lanes and longevity. Plus there are more leadership roles and stipends for highly effective teachers. The bottom line is good teachers can earn more money, faster,” Riley said.

The Lawrence Teachers Union, which has been working without a contract for three years, planned to discuss the proposal at a meeting set for this afternoon. School officials have already briefed union leaders on the contract and compensation system, which would go into effect for the start of the 2013-14 school year this fall.

Teachers Union President Frank McLaughlin said he couldn’t comment on the plan, saying it would be a violation of collective bargaining laws.

While Riley has the power to set pay scales under the state-ordered receivership of the city’s chronically underperforming school district, he said still seeks their input on the plan.

“We’re very interested in working with the teachers union to see what they have to say and hear proposals they may have and come to an agreement,” Riley said in an interview last night.

“I know of no other system in the state that allows a teacher with strong performance to move up the pay scale so quickly. I think it’s a good proposal for all our teachers and certainly makes us competitive with anybody in the Merrimack Valley. And for our strong teachers, this should make it more lucrative than anyone in the Merrimack Valley,” Riley said.

“It allows younger, high performing teachers to move up quickly in this new compensation system. At the same time, if a teacher is not doing a good job and is struggling, it doesn’t guarantee them a pay raise every year. My hope is that when the teachers see it, they will recognize this is a pro-teacher proposal,” he said.

Highlights of the plan include:

The creation of a career ladder with five roles for teachers (Novice, Developing, Career, Advanced, Master).

All current teachers will receive an increase in the career ladder system, and more than 92 percent of teachers will receive more than in the career ladder system than they would have received next year for steps and longevity under the old system.

Advancement up the ladder is based on a holistic measure of teacher effectiveness, either a teacher’s annual evaluation or a cumulative portfolio of their teaching career.

New teacher starting salaries will be raised to $44,000. The current starting salary for a teacher with a bachelor degree is $40,047; $42,664 for a teacher with a masters degree.

Teachers are eligible to earn more than $10,000 in additional annual stipends for teacher leadership roles, expanded learning time, and other roles & responsibilities.

Exemplary educators can increase their pay significantly faster than in the current system.

Teachers’ pay increases significantly after three years of service, when teachers often consider leaving the district and the profession.

Potential lifetime career earnings for teachers will be increased by over $300,000.

The proposal preserves key benefits for all teachers, including sick leave, personal leave, health insurance, life insurance and pensions.

“We think we have some great teachers in Lawrence and the majority of our teachers are doing an excellent job every day. This is a compensation system that honors that,” Riley said.

School officials say the new compensation model would cost an additional $3.5 million in next year’s School Department budget for just the career ladder.

But Riley said the increased costs in teachers pay increases would be offset by various spending controls, like energy efficiency savings.

“We believe our teachers are our most vital asset and that’s why we are making this investment,” Riley said.

“Great teachers are the most important factor in improving student achievement and making the LPS turnaround a reality,” he said.

Under the proposal, Racine said 100 percent of the school district’s 1,130 full-time teachers are going to make more next year, with an average increase of $3,068.

“This career ladder is a real opportunity to recruit, retain and attract great teachers to Lawrence, because great teachers matter,” Racine said.

“Teachers’ pay will increase significantly at a time when they might be considering going into a new profession or another district. That increase would be from $47,500 to $55,000, going into their fourth year,” he said.