Two Vital Issues

February 1, 2023 |

I see two issues as vitally important. 

First, we are at a teacher, other education professional, and hourly staff retention and recruitment crisis.  Every school district is having difficulty hiring and keeping teachers and other education professionals.  As the 5th largest school district in the state, we need to make sure that we are a competitive employer, not just regionally but statewide.  The stated goal of being in the middle as far as compensation is inadequate in the current environment.  We need to do better than average to retain and recruit educational professionals.

But it does not stop with just compensation.  We also need to make sure that we have the policies and procedures in place to empower our teachers.  We must also make sure we are being held accountable to actually follow our own policies and procedures.  As a school board member, I want to make sure that our policies and practices help retain and recruit the best teachers. 

Second, we are living in a time when people are losing trust in our public schools.  I believe that the best way to combat that is through an open and transparent school board. We need to ensure that we are getting real input from people in the community and that we are making our decisions in a transparent manner and communicating the reasons for those decisions to our community.  To assist with transparency, I advocate for putting financial transactions online in a searchable accountability portal.  To assist with parental involvement, I advocate for a permanent parents' advisory committee made up of parents from all schools to advise the board and the superintendent on issues that are important to parents.

Often, our parents do not have meaningful input in the decisions that the Board and the administration make.  I believe that one of the ways we can better ensure all students feel safe, and welcomed, and have the resources they need is to constitute a permanent parents advisory committee so that parents have a seat at the table.  This committee should be constituted of parents from all schools to meet with the Board and the superintendent to provide feedback and insight for emerging issues in the district and to make recommendations and facilitate strategies to better serve our community.

It is important that Columbia Public Schools be a competitive employer.  Ensuring competitive salaries, not just regionally but statewide, is essential as a basic threshold for retaining and recruiting quality education professionals.  But it does not stop there.  We need to make sure that we have policies that empower our teachers in their classrooms.  We need to make sure that we have benefits that meet or exceed other districts in the state.  And we need to ensure that we are supporting our teachers.

The essential factors to attract and retain quality employees are:

  1. Competitive pay and benefits for all educators and staff.  As stated above, we need to ensure were are more than just merely average.
  2. Promoting positive a workplace climate.  Culture plays a crucial role in the reason teachers leave the classroom.  We need to support and trust our teachers.
  3. Working to never freeze the pay scale.  Even in times of severe economic crisis, priority should always be on the payroll.  There is no budget without some fat.  We should always work to trim that fat.
  4. Compensation for extra duties.  Teachers who are forced to cover classes due to the substitute shortage should be compensated for taking the extra duty
  5. Other assistance and compensation.  We should be assisting our education professionals with incentives such as paying for certifications and continuing graduate education.  Other assistance and compensation should also be considered, such as onsite childcare facilities (ideally these would be subsidized for CPS personnel) and additional wellness benefits.
Paid for by Vote Paul Harper | Samantha Green, Treasurer
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