Marlin school officials are trying to lure teachers to the district next school year by increasing salaries for the second time this year, bringing them higher than other districts in the area.
In a move to attract a broader pool of applicants for what could be the district’s last school year, the Marlin Independent School District board of trustees approved a salary increase of 42.6 percent, or $15,000, for incoming teachers.
The new salaries will go into effect at the beginning of next school year and increase from the current rate of $35,056 to $50,000 for a 10-month contract for a new teacher, said Adam LeJeune, technology director for Marlin ISD. Teachers with 11-month contracts could see a similar jump of 37.5 percent, from about $40,000 to $55,000, LeJeune said.
This comes as one of the many efforts made by the superintendent to reverse the academic standards of the struggling district.
Marlin ISD failed state academic standards four years in a row, with its elementary school failing for the past eight years.
If the district fails preliminary state standards at the end of the 2015-16 school year, the state will replace its board of trustees with a board of managers. The district will close permanently if it also fails the final ratings, usually released in October.
Marlin ISD Superintendent Michael Seabolt presented the new pay scale to the board during Tuesday’s meeting, which included the salary increases and a bump in stipends for math and science teachers.
“My thing with the board was ‘Let’s throw money at this problem, but throw money at it in a smart way,’ ” Seabolt said in an interview Thursday.
Middle school teachers with math and science certifications could receive a $6,000 stipend for the year. High school teachers with the same certifications would receive $8,000.
The board raised salaries at the beginning of the school year, with first-year teachers receiving a 12 percent raise from $31,300 to $35,056 annually. Fifth-year teachers received about a 10 percent raise, from $34,800 to $38,976.
The new plan removes the “step” system, where teachers would receive an annual increase each year. Instead, there would be three rates.
For teachers already working in the district, the size of their raise will depend on how far their salary is from one of the three new rates.
In the previous scale, the most a teacher could earn was $53,244. The new scale sets the maximum about 12 percent higher, at $60,000 for 10-month contracts. The highest rate for 11-month contracts is $66,000.
This would place Marlin’s salaries considerably higher than surrounding school districts.
West Independent School District starts its teachers out at $32,427, and its maximum is $48,907. Waco teacher salaries range from $45,000 to $61,500, and Midway teacher salaries run from $43,000 to $55,692.
Seabolt said he needs to position the district to recruit better teachers and retain them.
“We intend to be the highest-paying school district within 75 miles,” he said. “We want to be the employer of choice.”
The raises will cost the district an additional $750,000 annually, but, Seabolt said, he plans to reduce the number of administrators and teachers in the district to cut costs.
State records show Marlin ISD’s enrollment has declined steadily for the past five years, starting at 1,035 in the 2010-11 school year and dropping by 158 to 877 as of October.
Seabolt said the district hasn’t adjusted the number of teachers it employs based on its student enrollment, leaving some classes with a student to teacher ratio of 10-1.
Marlin has about 95 teachers throughout the district.
‘Keep them regardless’
“We’re in a situation right now that if somebody comes to Marlin and will stay in Marlin, you keep them regardless of student outcomes, and that’s got to stop,” Seabolt said.
Seabolt also plans to suggest the board raise the maintenance and operation tax rate by 13 cents from its current rate of $1.04 per $100 of property valuation to $1.17.
State law requires the board of trustees to get voter approval to raise the maintenance and operation tax rate higher than $1.04 per $100 of property valuation. The board will vote on the rate this summer.
The district’s debt service tax rate is slightly more than 12 cents per $100 of property valuation and is collected in addition to the maintenance and operation tax.
If approved, this would bring in about $300,000 of revenue through local property taxes and $400,000 of state money.
If the tax ratification election doesn’t pass the first year, Seabolt said the district’s fund balance of more than $6 million is enough to keep teachers paid until it passes.
“We need to pass that TRE,” he said. “That tax ratification election will bring in three-quarters of a million dollars. That’s really what offsets a huge amount of this.”
But it’s imperative that the money in the district is put into instruction, he said.
“Everybody in education is critical, but the sharp edge of the knife is the teachers and the principals,” Seabolt said.