Raising teachers’ salaries has become a top priority for the Austin School Board as staff opened discussions on the 2023-24 school year budget Thursday night.
Staff, board members and residents have been calling for higher salaries for teachers for months due to employee retention issues.
Austin County staff have proposed a minimum of 5% increase in teachers’ salaries, which would increase the starting salary from $52,191 to $54,801.
Board vice president Kevin Foster wanted a more aggressive approach to salary increases and suggested that the district eventually aim for teachers to receive a $70,000 salary.
“I’m interested in carefully rethinking what has been done in some places across the country,” Foster said. “These are outliers, but it’s possible.”
Board members are also seeking pay increases for campus support staff such as caretakers, bus drivers, and canteen workers.
They also asked employees to focus on special education spending, non-wage benefits for teachers, and summer school programs.
Finding a superintendent
The board plans to hire the firm at its Jan. 25 meeting to find a new permanent superintendent, board member Noelita Lugo said at a Thursday meeting.
According to her, five search firms submitted proposals to the district. A subcommittee made up of board members plans to review and question the firms and then make recommendations to the board of directors, she said.
Austin County was forced to look for a superintendent after its previous leader, Stephanie Elizalde, left in June to become Dallas County Superintendent. Anthony Mays served as acting superintendent from June to December when he left to take charge of the Alif area near Houston.
In December, the board appointed Matthias Segura, chief of operations, to lead the district until it hires a permanent superintendent.
The board wants the search firm to start searching for a new principal by February and want the new principal to be on the job by this summer.
District staff have proposed several changes to the 2023-2024 academic calendar that will give students time off for holidays such as the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur and Diwali, the Indian festival of lights.
According to Jacob Rich, head of government relations and board services, employees moved to other days when students usually have days off to free up these vacations.
Rich said council members will need to address some of the community’s concerns about the district’s planning of parent-teacher conferences for elementary students on Yom Kippur.
Other holidays the district is considering to provide students with holidays include Indigenous Day and Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan in Islam.