The Bartlesville Board of Education voted Monday to approve additional teacher pay and leave benefits in an effort to ease COVID-19-related pressures and to keep the district competitive with peer cities.
With the Omicron variant causing recent staffing shortages and trouble securing substitute teachers, the board voted to extend the substitute teacher pay rate of $90 per day to those helping to cover the classes of teachers who are out.
Teachers covering one class period of another teacher will make an additional $15 per covered period — one sixth of the $90 rate — and elementary school teachers dividing an absent teacher’s class for a full day will split $90.
The full $90 rate will also be extended to non-classroom certified staff who cover a classroom for a full day.
The board also approved five days of emergency leave for all employees during the spring semester, which can be used if they contract COVID-19 or must care for a dependent who has contracted it and must isolate.
These changes came just hours after the Bartlesville Public School District (BPSD) announced Bartlesville High School, Madison Middle School and Central Middle School would be virtual on Tuesday and Wednesday due to COVID-19 related staff shortages.
During the Monday meeting, Granger Meador, the district’s executive director of technology and communications, updated the board on the pandemic’s ongoing impact.
The district is experiencing its highest COVID-19 case rate yet, with 49 staff members and 125 students in isolation as of Jan. 13. At the peak of the Delta variant in early fall, the district had 20 staff and 101 student isolations, Meador said.
The board also approved a one-time retention stipend of $500 for non-administrative certified staff on contract and $1,250 for classified staff members on contract.
Board President Scott Bilger said this retention stipend is an important step in solidifying a competitive place for the district in the midst of a nationwide teacher shortage that has been building for more than 30 years.
“We’re dealing with half as many teachers coming out on a regular basis and a slightly increased number of students … this isn’t something that’s just the same as the general labor shortage you see in the rest of the economy,” Bilger said.
With this ongoing teacher shortage, it is important that the district attain a competitive position among its 11 peer cities — which it can achieve with salary and teacher-to-student ratios, Bilger said
Among 12 school districts in similarly sized cities in Oklahoma, including Enid, Stillwater and Owasso, the BPSD ranked 11 in 2009 for salary, paying teachers $985 below the peer group average.
In 2019, the district ranked eighth, paying $165 below its peer group average. The district’s 2020 salaries, adjusted for the changes made during the meeting, placed the district at fifth among its peer cities, paying $257 above the peer group average.
“This is the first time in 20 years we’ve been above the peer group average. It’s not life-changing money, but it’s what we’ve got to do. We looked at it and said ‘we’ve got to become competitive,’” Bilger said.
This article originally appeared on Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise: Bartlesville School Board approves increases to pay, paid leave