By Suzie Glassman/NewsBreak
(Castle Rock, CO) DougCo's nearly 64,000 kids are heading to school today without the threat of looming COVID restrictions for the first time in three years.
DougCo schools have seen their fair share of controversy since the pandemic's start, including tense hours-long school board meetings, teacher protests, and student walk-outs. Yet, superintendent Erin Kane told 9News she expects no more drama this school year.
"We'll continue to follow our local health department in terms of following whatever we need to follow in terms of COVID-19. What we haven't seen is severity and we haven't seen severity going to our hospitals, et cetera. But of course we are keeping an eye on it and we will continue to work with our health department," Kane said.
Kane also told 9News that teacher turnover is in line with previous years, ending speculation that teachers might leave the district in droves after the school board voted 4-3 to fire former superintendent Corey Wise.
According to a Colorado Open Records request, 767 licensed teachers and substitutes will not return to their Douglas County classrooms next month. Nine principals, 14 assistant principals, and 10 district administrators also left.
The district lost 610 teachers, 27 principals, and 3 administrators in 2021.
Teachers and staff get a raise
As they welcome students back into their buildings today, DougCo teachers and staff face some good news about their salaries.
According to the 2022-2023 proposed budget presented to the school board in May, the average salary for licensed staff will increase by 8% from the last school year. Non-licensed staff will see an average of a 6% increase.
Individual salaries will also receive annual increases based on their level of education and years of experience. Non-licensed staff who are paid more than 5% below the market will get a salary adjustment of up to 8%.
The presentation notes, "even after these investments, our staff will continue to be below market (we expect the market rates to continue to increase next year, exacerbating this challenge)."
In addition, the increases will help keep up with rising prices for everything from gas to groceries. The Pew Research Center wrote in June that "according to the latest report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual inflation rate in May was 8.6%, its highest level since 1981, as measured by the consumer price index.”
DougCo teachers and staff returning to the district after the 2021-2022 school year will receive a one-time retention bonus this September. Full-time employees will get $2,000, and part-time will get $1,000.
The bonus excludes substitutes, coaches, and seasonal and temporary workers.
The estimated program cost is $15 million, which the district says accrued in 2021-2022.
"Adding retention pay into pay increase will increase the average salary by 10% for non-licensed staff and 12% for licensed staff," according to the presentation.
The board approved the retention bonuses 6-0 during the June 21 board meeting.