BEDFORD – A public hearing was held Thursday night per Indiana statute to communicate that negotiations between the teachers and corporation have begun.
Only two spoke during the public comment period. They were Lacy Hawkins president of the North Lawrence Education Association and Yancey Unger, a Bedford Middle School teacher.
According to Hawkins, the NLEA tries to promote the great things teachers are doing and advocates for the things they care about as they serve the students and community.
There are currently approximately 300 teachers in the North Lawrence Community School Corporation, forty-four teachers have recently departed the school corporation for reasons such as employment with better pay or a desired lifestyle change.
The teachers are at the bargaining table asking for better wages and benefits.
“While many school corporations around the state and nation suffer from tight budgets and an ongoing teacher shortage, North Lawrence has lagged behind its neighbors in taking care of teachers in the area. With many neighboring school districts literally recruiting our teachers to come to work for them, we stand on a precipice of a great staff shortage. This contract is one of our most important in the corporation history,” said Hawkins.
“We are hopeful that with the consolidation efforts it will result in a pay raise. Two experienced teachers told me that they are actively pursuing positions elsewhere,” Hawkins added.
Bedford Middle School teacher Yancey Unger who has taught for more than ten years, the last four at the North Lawrence Community School Corporation, voiced his concerns about the high turnover of teachers and issues that teachers within the corporation are dealing with.
“The number one factor within a school district’s control to affect student achievement is not the cost spent per student, it is not the curriculum, the number of students in a classroom, nor leaders selected. The number one factor under a school’s control for impacting student’s success is the teacher in front of them,” said Unger.
Nationally, there is a growing teacher shortage. Teachers are leaving the profession and there are fewer applicants to fill those positions. The State of Indiana had a five-year drop of 29 percent between 2013 and 2018 according to the Next Level Teacher Compensation Comparison Commission in 2020.
Non-competitive salaries are one of the key components negatively affecting recruitment of teachers and a cause for current teachers to leave the profession.
According to Unger comparing teacher rates to national and state averages is complex, with varying populations, district cultures climates, lack of good leadership, etc.
Looking at the percentage of resignations from other local school districts can provide insight into similarities and differences. Compared to the three geographically close districts with urban, suburban, and rural labels, North Lawrence Community Schools has a much larger rate since the end of last school year than all the others.
- Mitchell Community Schools – Number of teachers – 116, number of resignations 8 , percentage of teacher resginations 6 percent
- Monroe Community Schools – Number of teachers – 865, number of resignations 47, percentage of teacher resignations 5.5 percent
- Seymour Community Schools – Number of teachers – 309, number of resignations 19, percentage of teacher resignations 6.1 percent
- North Lawrence Community Schools – Number of teachers – 371, number of resignations 44 – percentage of teacher resignations 11.9 percent
- Source: Indiana Department of Education Inview
According to Unger, addressing the compensation of teachers as well as improving district culture and climate needs to be addressed.
From 2017-2018 Comparision of District Salaries:
- Mitchell Community Schools – Minimum annual salary -$35,595, Average annual salary $50,721, Maximum annual salary – $65,848
- Monroe County Community School – Minimum annual salary $38,500, Average annual salary $54,128, Maximum annual salary $74,500
- Seymour Community Schools – Minimum annual salary – $40,000, Average annual salary – $59,262, Maximum Annual salary – $76,250
- North Lawrence Community Schools – Minimum annual salary – $35,750, Average annual salary – $49,779, Maximum salary – $62,460
- Source – Information provided by Unger using data from the IndyStar
“The school corporation does well starting out, but however after a teacher has been in the corporation is where the wage compared to other corporations have a wide gap in compensation,” said Unger.
The corporation also needs to start looking at other factors such as strengthening human resource practices, building collective teacher efficacy, and improving communication both vertical and horizontally, he added.
“Communication needs to be improved from the bottom up,” Unger added.