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SOUTH SALT LAKE — Granite School District took a positive step in both attracting and retaining teachers in the district through a settlement package ratified Tuesday by the Granite School District Board of Education.
The new settlement package, which is negotiated annually between the Granite School Board and the Granite Education Association, includes increased wages, benefits, planning time, reliable processes and prioritizes balanced teacher workloads.
Granite School Board President Karyn Winder said that the goal is for the board and the association to find "shared interests" while negotiating the settlement agreement.
Cost of living and starting salary
"Increasing COLAs is absolutely essential to us keeping our quality educators," Winder said. "We need to retain the teachers we have."
Along with being crucial to retention, Winder said that the cost-of-living adjustment is also useful in attracting new educators to the district.
The increased salary for a first-year teacher in the district certainly couldn't hurt, either, and that was bumped to $52,824 — around $2,000 more than what it was the previous year.
"We have quality educators that are just coming out of college and obviously we want to be able to stay competitive with our neighbors and be able to attract those quality educators that are out there looking for teacher jobs," Winder said. "Come work for Granite."
Step and lane changes
Step changes are related to how many years an educator has worked in Granite School District.
For example, a teacher who has taught for eight years in the district would be on step eight, with step nine coming the following year.
"That step increase comes at about a $2,300 raise for that teacher and then the 4.25% COLA is then factored in on that new, increased salary," Winder said.
Lane changes correspond to the highest level of educational attainment achieved by an educator.
"If you're a teacher with a bachelor's degree, you're going to be in lane A," Winder said. "If you had a master's (degree) or further education credits that are approved through the district, then you can start moving over to lane B and lane C, and then that's a little bit of a higher salary."
Having monetary incentives for years of experience and education levels that actually shows up in employee paychecks is highly beneficial for the district when educators are looking for a district to work in.
More planning time, preparation days
"We care about the mental health and physical health of all of our employees and so it has been a stressful time. COVID has put an immense pressure on them," Winder said.
In response, the district in its new settlement increased planning time directed toward elementary school teachers to enhance instructional practices and granted three additional teacher planning and preparation days for the 2022-23 school year.
"By providing those extra days and times for teachers to catch up, to really be able to be reflective, to have time to be able to talk to their colleagues and be like, 'Hey, my class is having a hard time with this concept, what are you doing?' That is so powerful and helpful," Granite Education Association President Michele Jones said.
At the end of the day, Winder said, the goal of the district is to increase outcomes for the students in their district and giving teachers more time to plan and prepare is crucial to increasing said outcomes.
"Prep day, planning time, they're critical to student learning," Winder said. "We want to do what's right by kids."
"Students have more responsive and higher quality education when educators are given time to plan," Jones said.
Another aspect of Granite School District that Winder said helps to attract and retain educators lies in the "superior" benefits package that they're able to offer. Winder pointed to the Granite Employee Wellness Center, a clinic that is at no cost to employees and a place they can go for physical and mental health services.
"That is a big tool that we use because it's a huge benefit to our employees," Winder said. "We're pretty proud of that."
She also pointed to insurance and early retirement plans that help the district retain quality educators while attracting new ones.
"The outcomes of this agreement are the result of the district and Granite Education Association identifying our shared interests to produce positive results for teachers and, in turn, our students," Jones said.
The settlement will take effect at the commencement of teacher contracts for the 2022-23 school year.