Park City School District announces $7,000 raise for teachers | ParkRecord.com

Park City School District announces $7,000 raise for teachers

Starting salary of $50,700 is tops in Utah

Bob OConnor, principal of Park City High School, addresses a crowd of students and staff members Wednesday during the Park City School Districts announcement of a teacher compensation package. Teachers throughout the district this fall will receive a $7,000 pay increase, while the salary for new teachers will start at $50,700, the top mark in the state.

Teachers in the Park City School District will have plenty of reasons to check their bank accounts this fall — 7,000 of them, in fact.

The district announced Wednesday it has agreed with the Park City Education Association to a three-year teacher compensation package that provides a $7,000 boost to salaries for all licensed staff members, which includes $1,200 for housing and travel and $2,500 for professional development. First-year teachers with bachelor's degrees will earn $50,700, up from $43,700 and the highest starting salary of any district in the state.

Salaries for licensed staff with master's degrees will start at $55,700, and teachers will also receive extra money by earning endorsements or completing national board certification.

The Park City Board of Education ratified the agreement Wednesday in a unanimous vote.

Tim McConnell, assistant superintendent of human resources, said striking a three-year deal was "remarkable." The district and the Park City Education Association — which represents teachers in Park City — initially set out for a two-year agreement, but the sides were able to agree on a salary schedule that will last through the 2019-2020 school year.

"It was beyond our expectations to get three years," he said. "It was a smooth process. There was a definite motivation to have people understand that teaching is a good profession to be in. And also, we've got to be competitive in this market. It's not easy for people to come up and live in this community, and part of what we have to do is attract people to come up the mountain."

The announcement comes amid a salary spike that has swept throughout Utah's public schools this spring, with districts seeking to make teaching a more attractive field amid record turnover rates and fewer people entering the profession. Earlier in May, the Salt Lake School District, for example, increased its starting salary to $44,000 and bumped pay for all teachers by 9 percent.

McConnell said that trend played a definitive role at the bargaining table.

"The momentum started from what the other districts were doing," he said. "That was very clear. … That absolutely had an impact on what we wound up doing."

Sam Thompson, co-president of the Park City Education Association, said the $7,000 salary surge is not far from the increase teachers sought at the beginning of negotiations. He's confident the raises will make a tangible difference in classrooms and credited school officials throughout Utah for making teacher compensation a priority this spring.

"Actions speak louder than words," he said. "Putting that in place says (the district) is committed to attracting and retaining the best teachers in the state of Utah. It's expensive to live up here or commute if you're living in the valley. This gives us that incentive to get the best and brightest."

Andrew Caplan, a school board member involved in the negotiations, said teachers are the district's most important asset. In a community like Park City that prioritizes education, it made sense for the district to open its pocketbook.

"It was pretty unanimous from the board, as well as Superintendent (Ember Conley) and the administration, that we wanted to prioritize our teachers at the highest possible level we could," he said. "This contract reflects that."

The district will pay for the raises with money from a 4 percent increase to the weighted pupil unit — the mechanism by which the state funds public education — the Utah Legislature approved over the winter, as well with reserves in the maintenance and operations fund.

The agreement has no relationship to the district's effort to pass a substantial bond measure this fall to pay for an expansion of Park City High School and a new school for fifth- and sixth-graders, as funding for capital projects comes out of a separate fund.