Board approves  teacher salary increase

HOPE – The Hope Public Schools Board adopted a $2,000 base salary schedule increase for all certified district personnel Monday night to bring the district’s salary scale into alignment with increases required by state law.

HPS Superintendent Dr. Bobby Hart announced the board’s action Tuesday in an email to district employees.

“Last night our board approved my recommendation to add $2,000 to our salary schedule,” Dr. Hart wrote. “This is an across the board increase. ALL certified teachers will see this increase next year. Our board is committed to continuing to raise our teacher salaries and wants each of you to know that they appreciate your service.”

The increase becomes effective in the 2021-2022 fiscal year beginning July 1.

The board discussed the recommendation during an executive session at the close of the regular meeting based upon Hart’s earlier explanation. He said the recommendation stemmed from a change in state law which requires school districts to pay a base $36,275 beginning teacher salary. The law requires the adjustment to be completed within three years.

Hart said the HPS salary schedule was adjusted by the board last year to its current $34,275 for a BSE degree with no years of experience. He said the state will likely provide funding in the next biennium to address teacher pay through enrollment-based support.

“We have not received any money for the last two years that we haven’t used,” Hart said.

He said the move is intended to bring the HPS closer to the regional average salary for teachers as it affects the salary schedule.

The board also agreed to remove the superintendent’s position from the salary schedule and pay a base of $142,000 per year with $3,000 annual travel stipend and a $300 insurance stipend for that position.

The board heard an overview of the development of the HPS Dyslexia program from CALT Dyslexia Coordinator Karen Ivers. The program is in its fifth year in the Hope Public Schools.

“The process has been long and daunting,” Ivers said.

Beginning in 2016, she said the district started building a mandated program for Dyslexia intervention and teaching based upon the Phonics First concept. Ivers said the program was introduced through Clinton Primary School in order to “grow” it through the grades on each campus.

“One of the main things we took on was addressing core instruction,” she said.

Building staff as needs arose year by year, Ivers said developing parental engagement was a key to acceptance in the initial five years. That was accomplished, in part, by blending key elements such as phonics instruction into regular classroom education.

By 2018, Ivers said keeping professional development for both staff and teachers current became a challenge and a goal in order to ensure compliance with the law. But, by 2019, ongoing use of research from data-based professional development allowed both collaboration at the classroom level and grade-level instruction.

By 2020, the program had incorporated credit-based instruction at the high school level that kept students on track for graduation, Ivers said.

“We were moving mountains; doing things we had never done before,” she said.

Then came COVID-19.

“This was one of our greatest ‘Aha’ moments,” Ivers said. “A lot of things have happened as far as moving forward.”

Now, with a staff of seven that has built an instructional foundation districtwide, Ivers said the HPS program is fully compliant with the law and developing a second five-year program for the future.

“I think we have one of the strongest programs in the state,” Hart told the board.

In other actions Monday, the board:

--Approved the issuance of some $3 million in second lien bonds with approximately $1.5 million set for an energy usage and construction program, with the remainder refinancing current debt. Sale of the bonds was at 1.48 percent annually which will not require any change to debt services.

--Bought four new school buses for a total of $384,874 from Summit Bus and Central States Bus Sales, Inc..

--Adopted a 2021-2022 district calendar.

--Learned that new Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funds have been allocated to the state but not released to districts.

--Discussed plans for a proposed outdoor prom and graduation exercises at Hope High School.

--Learned that HPS Child Nutrition Director Deanna Gilbert and the food services department have been recognized for their service by the U. S. Department of Agriculture.