Tempe Union teachers will get at least a 10 percent raise and school security will be beefed up next school year under the budget unanimously adopted last week by the Tempe Union High School governing board.
“We find ourselves in a good position,” said Superintendent Kenneth Baca, noting, “We are able to compensate our employees and offer more intervention for students.”
The latter referred to an increase in counselors in the wake of more than two dozen East Valley teen suicides since July. Three students in the Tempe Union District have taken their lives in the last three years.
Teachers are getting a $7,549 raise in the 2018-19 school year, which translates into an annual hike of between 10.3 percent and 19.5 percent raise, depending on their education level and years with the district. Annual salaries will range from $46,137 for beginners to $82,837 a year for someone with a doctorate and 19 years with the district.
In addition, administrative, classified and instructional staff will get an across-the-board raise of 6 percent.
In an email to employees, Baca – who is leaving the district to take over the Madison Elementary School District in Phoenix – praised the school board’s work in achieving enough budget savings to enact the raises, add six security guards and increase the number of counselors from four to seven full-timers.
“Their attention to detail and welcoming of your input is to be commended,” Baca wrote. “They did not take this decision lightly but were very proud to be able to provide all employees one of the largest salary increases in some time.”
Baca also noted that the board will begin a study of district salaries “in order to ensure we recognize longevity and employees who have been loyal to Tempe Union.”
He said that in recent years, delays in passing the state budget “did not give school districts the time needed to engage and discuss with all employees the various budget opportunities and challenges.”
Now, he said, “Conducting a salary study early on will improve upon our current budget development process while ensuring we remain competitive with employee compensation.
The National Education Association puts the average teacher salary in Arizona at $45,477 a year, the lowest in the nation.
The addition of social workers as well as five new “academic interventionists” is part of Daca’s pledge to have the district address some of the pressures that drive teenagers to consider suicide.
Parents and students had urged the board to expand that kind of intervention because of students who have taken their lives, especially in the past school year.