The Waukesha School Board is moving forward with a $77,150 contract for a consulting team to look at the district’s compensation plan.
Battelle for Kids, a consulting firm that looks at education issues, will work with teachers and school district administration to develop a compensation plan that could include merit-based pay.
Superintendent Todd Gray said Wednesday during the Waukesha School Board meeting that the contract isn’t limited to merit-based pay but reviews all aspects of teacher’s compensation. He said he wanted to dispel any myths that teacher’s won’t be compensated if students do not perform well. However, the compensations review is being done to provide incentives or motivation for teacher’s to do their best in and outside of the classroom.
“The only kind of plan that I will agree to is one that is positively motivational,” said Gray, who added that the district faces tough competition from other districts in recruiting teachers. Gray doesn’t want to see the district lose teachers or potential new teachers from an outdated compensation plan.
Board members Dan Warren, Karin Rajnicek, Pat McCaffery, Joseph Como, Steve Edlund and Bill Baumgart approved the contract. Patricia Madden was absent while Barb Brzenk and Ellen Langill voted “present,” effectively abstaining from the vote.
Langill had several concerns about how teachers could be compensated on criteria that she feels is not measurable. A merit-based pay structure is “a system that could ultimately destructive, not constructive,” she said.
Brzenk said she’s concerned about how teacher’s will be ranked because students’ test scores aren’t necessarily a reflection on the teacher. And teachers are motivated by resources, a positive work environment and being acknowledged and appreciated, she added.
“I believe the community, however, wants to see a change in teacher compensation,” Brzenk said.
“I don’t want to be a roadblock, and I don’t want to halt this journey. … I will walk with you,” she added. “I will ask hard questions and I expect answers. I know teachers are anxious about this and understandably so.”
Merit-based pay isn’t the only component to the study, Edlund said, as the district will review different compensation models. 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,
“They are not telling us what to put together,” Edlund said about the consultants. “We are telling them what to put together.”
Como said the school district needs to retain quality staff and the development of a plan is a way to research and develop ways to keep high-end teachers.
“How do we compensate our teachers is really the question,” Como said. “Could there be a component that maybe gives some extra to those that go the extra mile? Maybe, maybe not. … At the end of the day, if we don’t like it, we can go back to the drawing board.”
One person spoke about the contract during public comment. Nancy Alt, of Waukesha, said she was concerned about changing the pay scale, saying that areas of teaching aren’t easy to measure. It’s difficult to gauge one teacher’s success over another’s work.
“Our teachers’ salaries are low for the job they do,” Alt said.