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New teacher compensation plan coming to West Bend

By Brianna Stubler

bstubler@conleynet.com 262-306-5046

WEST BEND -— The school district’s teacher compensation committee met with the school board and other informative figures to discuss a recently developed teacher compensation plan, which is close to its final version and should be implemented by June.

The committee had eight meetings over the past five months, but this week marked the first time for the school board to hear recommendations. No votes were cast or decisions made; it was an informational committee meeting to share updates.

The district’s Human Resources Director, Dave Hammelman, presented the committee’s work to the school board, along with a handful of teachers on the compensation committee who shared their thoughts.

West Bend Joint School District President Joel Ongert recognized dedication from the committee and district employees to bring forward a preliminary plan, and thanked those involved. A completely new compensation framework is developing, Ongert said, after flaws were found with the system created in 2014 and revised in 2016. This pay scale only applies to the estimated 480 teachers in the district.

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“What they presented is definitely a step in the right direction compared to the current framework,” Ongert said. “Our teachers really don’t like the point system where they have to do x, y, and z to earn up to 100 points, which determines how they will be paid the following year.”

A more clear plan, especially considering microcredentialing and furthering education programs, would be beneficial and was discussed at length. Too much emphasis on checking the boxes of reaching educational milestones neglects other aspects that comprise a good teacher, Ongert said.

These concerns were voiced by district teachers during their meeting, and have been considered continuing forward with the new model. The replacement is not what he called a “step and lane” model, the commonly-used plan prior to Act 10 that correlates a teacher’s further education with increased salary.

“That model doesn’t address teacher performance, and we want to recognize our top performing teachers and those who are proactive,” Ongert said. “I truly believe this model will reward teachers based on things they’ve earned.”

Keeping and rewarding educators

One slight modification is increasing the outlook for novice teachers from three to five years. The district plans to show new teachers their pay increase for the next five years to allow them a greater perspective on their earning potential within West Bend schools.

The goal is to attract new teachers to the district and to retain those who are here.

“We’re working to make it attractive for those just out of college and people looking to make a midcareer move,” Ongert said. “We want people to look at our compensation model and say, ‘that’s a good place to work,’ and for our veterans to want to stay and retire here.”

Being competitive with nearby districts is important as well, he said, and West Bend is among the leaders in the area.

This model, although in its early stages, does that, Ongert said. It rewards teachers for continuing education either related to their educational emphasis or in courses related to literacy, as that is an area of emphasis within the district.

Where some members disagreed was in determining whether or not a teacher would be eligible for a pay increase based on the district’s estimation of their professional future.

West Bend teacher Tanya Lohr disagreed with the district’s role in determining the mobility of a teacher. She said it is not their place to tell a teacher they have no future within a different area of the district and, therefore, would not pay for additional education in that area. Ongert said these type of leadership and mobility discussions happen frequently in other career fields and it is appropriate for the district to decide not to reward a teacher for a position they do not see themselves moving into in the future.

These disagreements highlighted the multifaceted aspects of creating a new compensation plan and the difficulty in pleasing diverse needs.

Still unknowns

As this new plan is in its infancy, the group has not yet determined the financial reward for specific types of continuing education -— that will be saved for a later meeting. The fundamentals needed to be discussed before a more definitive, descriptive version could be agreed upon.

Another key piece to this puzzle is the state budget, which directly affects how much the West Bend School District can spend on teachers.

“It has to be financially viable because the school district only has so much money, and we can’t be promising teachers pay raises and bonuses if we can’t afford it,” Ongert said. “We’re using taxpayer dollars to pay our employees, so it has to be a plan that’s sustainable.”

The state budget will play a large role, he said, so the committee also must consider how to pay teachers what they deserve with an eye on the district’s bank account. With the district’s deadline looming before a final state decision is likely, Ongert said it’s tough to put pen to paper and give teachers a number.

“I remember two years ago, Walker didn’t approve a budget until well into the school year, so what we did then is what I’m sure we’ll do now -— run different scenarios,” he said. This means more work for the committee to create alternatives, which must eventually be presented to the board for approval by the beginning of the next school year on July 1.

“We pay our teachers pretty well -— what they’re looking forward to changing is the model itself,” Ongert said. They are looking forward to the predictability, and by listening to their feedback, the idea is to create a model that represents teachers’ needs within the confines of the district.

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