Francis Howell salaries under the microscope as cuts loom

Francis Howell School District (KMOV)

Francis Howell School District leaders are weighing their options to balance the budget after voters said "no" to a 60 cent tax levy in November. District leaders tell News 4 transportation and salaries are two of the district's biggest expenses. While the Board of Education is looking at transportation as a possible area to make cuts, district leaders tell News 4 that staff salaries are safe, even though they have been significantly raised in the past few years.

According to data from the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), in 2012, the average salary for a teacher in the district was $56,345. In 2015, it is $64,109. The same data shows in 2012, there were 77 administrators with an average salary of $106,055. In 2016, there are 68 administrators with an average salary of $122,413.

While district leaders pushed voters to pass Prop Howell, they touted responsible spending and cuts to administration. According to numbers from DESE, it is true that the district cut the number of administrative positions. But for those that are still there, the average pay increased by 15 percent. The district tried to justify that, saying the ones who remained were more veteran with higher pay, but even that doesn't add up because the total expense now ($8,324,067 in 2016) is more than it was when there were more positions ($8,166,21 in 2012).

The district is pushing other numbers, like the total salary of the Cabinet decreased by $100,000 from 2015-16 to 2016-17 and the student to administrator ratio in FHSD is 252:1, whereas the state average is 188:1.

"In the Francis Howell district, we have asked administrators at building level and at central office to do more work so we have fewer bodies to do that work. So we believe those salaries are commensurate with that work load," said Supple.

The same data from DESE shows teacher salaries have also significantly increased in the district. In 2012, the average salary for a teacher in the district was $56,345. In 2015, it is $64,109. The same data shows in 2012, there were 77 administrators with an average salary of $106,055. In 2016, there are 68 administrators with an average salary of $122,413.

The district's chief operation officer, Kevin Supple, justified the teacher raises by sighting an extended contract year for the teacher. The district added three days for professional training.

"The increases were made because we, as a board and administration, believe very strongly that our teachers needed additional time to enhance their professional learning," said Supple. "Overall, we think it was an investment in the professionalism of our teaching staff. We know the teacher in front of the classroom is the single most important factor in driving great education for our kids. So we need to make sure they are at the top of their game and to do that we needed to add additional time for them to improve their craft so they can be the best possible,"

Supple also said the district had to raise salaries to compete with districts they compete with academically. According to data from DESE, salaries in the Francis Howell School District are higher than other districts in St. Charles County but lower than a few others in the St. Louis area. For perspective, DESE shows the average teacher salary for 2016 in Wentzville is $56,378, Troy is $47,587, Rockwood is $61,393, and Clayton is $74,768.

"I don’t believe we have substantially outpaced other districts. I do believe we made an effort to be a great school district and we want to have great teacher and as a result, maybe our salaries are a little bit higher but I don’t think we are far away from that," said Supply.

Supple stopped short of saying the district had been banking on more money from taxpayers to sustain the pay raises, but acknowledged the numbers wouldn't add up without more revenue.

"So did I foresee that? Yes. The board and administration always have a lot of conversations. We take a look at a five year projection and we did that throughout the course of the time frame you referenced so we understood we were going to need to see an increase in our revenue," said Supple.

Still, district leaders say they stand by the salary increases in recent years and are recommending status quo staffing for the 2017-2018 school year. That means as the board of education continues to talk about cutting transportation and extracurricular activists, these salaries are not likely to change.

Copyright 2016 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

News 4 Anchor/Reporter

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