Written by: Mitch Donat
Teachers in the Palo Alto Unified School District (PAUSD) will get a 3 percent pay raise and a 1.5 percent bonus retroactive for the 2012-2013 school year in an agreement that the Palo Alto Educator’s Association (PAEA) recently ratified.
A pay raise has been issued for numerous reasons, according to Principal Katya Villalobos. “[Our district] has not seen a pay raise in quite awhile—since 2007,” she said. “In addition, our district historically has had a practice of making sure that we keep up within the top range of salaries to make sure we are competitive in attracting teachers.”
According to Villalobos, the economic decline of previous years slowed the district’s hiring of teachers. Recent stability at the local level, however, has allowed the district to become competitive once again in the teachers’ market.
This recovering local economy has allowed the district to begin compensation for PAUSD teachers. “In the economic decline, [the district] was essentially tightening belts and making sure that [the teachers] have sustainability for a long period of time,” PAEA representative Jordan Huizing said. “With this sense of recovery, we don’t have to plan for a disaster or endless rainy days, and the district can begin to take care of us as a community.”
According to Villalobos, neighboring districts such as Mountain View, Los Altos and Sequoia recently have had salary scales larger than that of PAUSD because they are solely high school districts and have fewer employees. These reasons all contributed to the feeling that the salaries of PAUSD teachers were “falling behind” compared to rival districts, according to Villalobos.
PAUSD considers itself a “lighthouse district”—one that is always innovating on the forefront of education and that other districts look to for guidance, according to Huizing. “We can only be a lighthouse district when we have the highest quality people working here,” she said.
Included in the contract for a 3 percent pay raise is a provision stating that teachers are expected to update their students’ grades once at least every three weeks. According to Superintendent Kevin Skelly, this part of the agreement was the most debated. “We don’t want [the students or parents/guardians] to treat their grades like bank accounts, where they know what’s in them every second, every minute,” he said.
While most teachers do regularly update grades within a three-week period, the biggest question in the agreement is the philosophical reasoning of posting them so frequently. “It’s not so much that people don’t think [the agreement] is good; some will vote to support and others will not,” Villalobos said. “But is it really necessary to have kids check their grades every single day?”
Furthermore, teachers must also participate in 18 hours of professional development over two years. Teachers can earn these hours by taking additional classes or attending workshops approved by the district.
Skelly believes that the contract showcases the hard work PAUSD teachers put in. “I hope that the community recognizes this as an attempt to recognize our teachers’ perseverance through a difficult economic downturn,” he said.
According to Huizing, the contract has been met with generally positive response with regards to the teachers. “Personally, I think it’s a step in the right direction,” she said.