With a vote of 2-1, the Waukesha School Board’s Human Resources Committee recommended Wednesday night moving forward with a contract for a consulting firm to help the district design a new compensation program for teachers.
The $77,150 contract with the firm, Battelle for Kids, will go to the full school board next week for consideration.
Still in the early stages, the district is beginning to look at developing a system of alternate forms of teacher compensation that may include some type of merit pay or other ways to determine teacher pay.
“Not necessarily merit pay in and of itself but strategic compensation that aligns with our vision of excellence and what we value as a district,” Waukesha’s Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Christine Hedstrom said.
“We need to do something different than step-and-lane salary schedule because this school district values more than experience and education level," she added. "If we value more than those two things, what else do we value? And aligning our values to what we pay people, how do we go about doing that?”
What the new plan might entail hasn’t yet been determined, Hedstrom said: “Our compensation design team hasn’t gotten that far yet.”
The design team consists of about 20 members, including district administrators and elementary, middle and high school and special education teachers along with union representatives, Hedstrom said.
Hedstrom said that one of the problems with the current district step-and-lane plan, in which teachers receive more pay based on their education level and/or their length of time teaching, is that newer teachers are stifled in their ability to earn more. Helping teachers be more engaged is a goal.
“Engaged employees leads to engaged students, leads to student achievement, and that’s why we’re doing this,” Hedstrom said.
School Board Member Ellen Langill voted against the contract with Battelle.
“We as a board should look into … this a little more thoroughly,” she said.
She questioned if the district wanted to move forward with a merit pay plan and was critical of the idea of merit pay for teachers, questioning whether it was possible to measure teaching.
“I have to say that philosophically, I have a problem with that," Langill said. "We’re not dealing with things that are easily quantifiable or measurable."
Tony Bagshaw, managing director of Battelle for Kids, spoke to the committee via conference call about the work the organization does for districts throughout the nation.
Typically the compensation models Battelle for Kids helps develop focus on academic measures, in addition to value-added data, which Wisconsin doesn’t currently have, he said. Sometimes, the plans are bonus models or incentives and measure specific things such as teamwork.
They don’t see a lot of “pure achievement measures” due to the difficulty of separating out social-economic impacts on student achievement, he said.
Student achievement should be a part of the discussion because student achievement is the objective of every school district, said Human Resources Committee chairman Steve Edlund.
Edlund said that he hoped Waukesha would be a leading district in the state in terms of teacher compensation, changes in which are now more easily made due to Act 10.
School Board Member Karin Rajinchek also voted to recommend the contract with Battelle.
"I just feel strongly that we should do something and we should do it now," she said. "If someone doesn't want this, I would ask why not."