Verona raises base pay for teachers by $1,000

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Pay, benefits package to help keep district competitive

The Verona school board voted to boost the base salary of teachers and made additional hires in preparation for the new school year.

At the recommendation of Superintendent Tony Simmons, the board raised base pay by $1,000, putting the starting salary for a new teacher at $31,000. Simmons noted other area districts were raising pay by $250 to $500.

"You may call this aggressive; it's what you wanted," Simmons said.

He noted that the Exeter district, for example, starts slightly higher in pay than Verona, but it has $400 steps in the raise given for each year of experience. Verona has a $500 step, which will enable district teacher to pass Exeter in time. Verona's pay for a master's degree was lower than others, but again catches up with a higher pay step for experience.

In addition to pay, Simmons said Verona's benefits package for first-year teachers was one of the best in the area, surpassed only by Monett at the top, Mt. Vernon, Aurora, Marionville and Southwest.

Administrators in Verona were not paid as highly as in other districts.

"I think we're where we should be," Simmons said. For the coming year, Verona has a new high school principal, starting at a lower rate than her 10-year predecessor, Terry Winton. With the retirement of Shelly Gatton, the district no longer has a full-time special services director, reducing that administrative expense.

When the board passed raises last year, they also adopted a multiplier that automatically increased pay for administrators, depending on the size of the boost in the base. With those multipliers, Simmons' pay as superintendent rose to $94,000. Melody Whitehead, elementary principal entering her second year, will receive $66,150. Naomi Austin, the new high school principal, was hired at $67,500, but Simmons said all employees will receive that raise, which will put Austin's salary at $69,750.

The pay adjustment also came with a $25 monthly increase in what the district provides for insurance. Simmons said the district saw a 3.4 percent increase in the cost of premiums that he did not think the district should entirely absorb. The increase would raise the district's commitment in insurance benefits to $560 if an employee did not participate in the wellness program, or $585 with participation. If all participated, the increase in raises and benefits would add $125,000 to the district's budget, which passed.

A smaller kindergarten class last year will result in having one less first-grade teacher in the coming year, which would reduce the budget by about $30,000, Simmons added.

Board members approved two resignations. Kara McKnight resigned as Parents As Teachers instructor, who left to take another position in her hometown. Fourth-grade teacher Mari Dobyns resigned to take a job in Carthage.

The board hired Misty Yocum to teach fourth grade. Yocum returns to the district after teaching in Republic. Tiffany Reed, who has substituted for paraprofessionals, was hired as the Parents As Teachers instructor. Not a certified teacher, Reed will work closely with Whitehead.

Candice Voirin was hired as a new art teacher. While not an art teacher, Whitehead said Voirin was "artsy" and showed lesson plans and a list of projects so wanted to pursue. Simmons indicated Voirin planned to take the needed courses to become certified, and he was willing to take a chance on someone willing to learn.

Brandon Weiss was hired to teach junior high history and to coach. Weiss had previously taught at Seymour, Exeter, Clever, Miller and Crane. He was also named the head girls basketball coach, the junior high and fifth and sixth grade girls basketball coach, the junior high baseball coach, and the girls summer weights coach.

Web Freeman, who returns as yearbook sponsor and junior class co-sponsor with Kelly Huse, was named as the new assistant archery coach. New vocational agriculture teacher David Parrack was named the new FFA sponsor. Sophia Martin was named the new assistant girls basketball coach. Ethan Moffitt, who coached girls basketball in college but who is not a certified teacher, was named the assistant baseball coach.

That left the junior high softball coach as the only vacant extra duty position.

In year-end financial action, the board amended the budget for the 2017-2018 school year to actual income and expenses, then adopted that as the preliminary budget for the coming school year. They approved transferring the full 7 percent of the general fund to the capital improvements fund. The full amount of the transfer would not be known, Simmons said, until the district's annual audit was finished, but should total around $200,000.

Simmons noted central office staff have been especially busy using new bookkeeping software trying to apply new accounting codes required by the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. Instead of putting funds into one pot and paying bills, the district must now meet new requirements from DESE to track all spending by building, fund and source.

"We're working hard to make it easy for teachers when they get back," Simmons said.

In other financial action, Simmons reported the district had closed on purchase of a vacant lot east of the high school offered for sale by Lyle Youngberg for $1,877. He planned to seek bids for demolition of the storage shed on the site, which he estimated would cost between $8,000 and $10,000.

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