A competitive salary scale was one of the goals for Hamilton Southeastern Schools negotiating teams as they discussed a teacher contract for the 2023-24 school year.
The HSE Board of Trustees unanimously approved a new contract Nov. 8, with what district Chief Finance Officer Katy Dowling said is the highest starting salary in Hamilton County.
The contract includes raises in base pay for all levels with additional compensation to recognize educational achievements. The new salary scale ranges from $48,500 to $91,801, compared to the previous range of $44,074 to $87,530.
The contract, which is retroactive to July, also revamps paid leave to provide more flexibility. Teachers still get 14 days of paid time off, but instead of four personal days and 10 sick days, they have seven days of each.
During public comment, Lantern Road Elementary School teacher Debi Majeski spoke in favor of the contract and the process that led to the bargaining agreement. She was on the Hamilton Southeastern Education Association’s bargaining team and said there was a true sense throughout the process of coming together for the good of all.
“Educators and community members are often led to believe that bargaining is an adversarial process,” Majeski said. “I wish everyone could have seen what I saw. It was a collaborative process where we didn’t feel like we were on opposing sides. We felt like we were one cohesive team trying to do the best for HSE students and teachers.”
She thanked the board for allowing the district to move forward with interest-based bargaining, a collaborative approach where those involved work together to find solutions.
Speaking before the board vote, Dowling also lauded the benefits of interest-based bargaining, adding that the community in general clearly wants a strong public school system.
“I think yesterday, with the election and the vote for the referendum, it just showed that our community really supports our schools and our teachers, and we would love for this to pass for that reason,” she said. “It’s a great recognition of the wonderful things that our teachers do for our students.”
The district’s new operating referendum on the Nov. 7 ballot passed overwhelmingly with about 70 percent of the vote. The referendum rate of up to .1995 cents per $100 assessed value takes effect in January, providing annual school funding of an estimated $24 million.
The current referendum, approved by voters in 2016, expires at the end of this year.
During board discussion of the new contract, board member Suzanne Thomas said the bargaining process seems to get better each year.
“As an advocate for always wanting to have the highest pay as teachers in our district and our support staff, this is the first step,” she said, adding that she was pleased that teachers who earn higher-level degrees will be compensated for their achievements. “We are now getting into a position where we are very competitive and really rewarding those teachers for their hard work.”
After the board’s unanimous vote, those in the audience — many of them teachers — gave a standing ovation.
The next HSE board meeting is a work session scheduled for 7:30 a.m. Nov. 14. Another work session is 7:30 a.m. Dec. 5, with the next regular meeting set for 7 p.m. Dec. 13.