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11:46 PM Mon, Nov. 12th

Raises voted in for KUSD employees, teachers

Superintendent Jacks' contract extended

KINGMAN - All employees of the Kingman Unified School District will be getting raises this year.

The district's governing board unanimously agreed Tuesday to approve a 2 percent raise for all classified and administrative employees, and a 3 percent raise for certified teachers. The raises would cost the district about $600,000 for classified and administrative staff, and about $760,000 for teachers.

The district has about 660 classified and administrative staff, and about 320 certified teachers.

"I feel the teachers have deserved this for a long time," said new board member Carole Young. "We need to provide the compensation to recruit and retain good teachers, and salaries have been a hindrance.

"I wish we could have given another percent to all employees, but unfortunately, we couldn't. We had long discussions and tried to be fair."

The board considered giving an overall 3 percent pay raise to all staff in 2014, but approved a 1 percent hike totaling $255,000 instead. KUSD staff has received annual stipends since about 2008, and was given a tiered raise in 2013. Those with longevity received a 2.5 to 3 percent raise, while short-timers got a 1 percent increase.

The lack of raises over the years has been blamed on the district's financial troubles that began in 2007, when KUSD enrollment began decreasing because of the area's economic turmoil. The situation worsened as the state suffered a financial crisis in 2009, leaving little money for education.

Despite the ensuing financial hardships, the board met several times recently to discuss the issue of raises again. KUSD Superintendent Roger Jacks said that while the district would be receiving new funding this year from the state, that will be swallowed up by other pressing needs.

The money comes from a 1.59 percent rise in inflation and $74.4 million figured in by the state as initial payment on an inflation-related lawsuit. The district would see an increase of $54.31 per student in 2015-16, which translates to about $800,000 more in its budget.

Those needs included a proposed increase of $800,000 in the district's employee health insurance plan. And because of the Affordable Care Act, long-term substitute teachers who work 30 hours a week must be offered insurance by the district, at a cost of about $200,000. Before, they had to work a minimum of 35 hours to qualify for insurance.

While there's nothing KUSD can do about the Affordable Care Act requirements, it did manage to cut costs on employee health insurance by changing providers, choosing a company that increased the current price by only $160,000 instead of $800,000.

Other needs include funding for several new programs in the district, including $100,000 for a STEM academy that will prepare students for science, technology, engineering and mathematics careers. About $100,000 is needed for a middle-school alternative school, and $50,000 for an elementary-school special needs classroom.

The district worked hard to rearrange and cut funds to ensure the availability of raises, said Jacks. Also, because of an instructional fund that must be used strictly for teachers, the district and board were able to tack an extra percentage point on their raises.

New contract

Also during the meeting, the governing board extended the superintendent contract for Jacks by three years. Jacks was hired as superintendent of KUSD in July 2008 and his contract has been extended every three years, with the latest signed in July 2013 and expiring in 2016. He earns $96,000 a year and has full benefits.

Jacks said he wants to remain for another three years so he can implement programs he put in place this year. They include the new 45/10 school schedule and the new STEM program at Kingman High School. Both begin this fall.

Also, Jacks would like to firm up several programs that began during his tenure. They are the Cambridge International Program, a rigorous academic curriculum at Lee Williams High School, as well as specialized learning programs Beyond Textbooks, Re-Teach and Enrich, and Daily Math Skills. All have been used for three years.

"I want to be around to see how everything works out," said Jacks. "I was part of planning it, and now I want to see it being implemented. So I think I'll hang around a little more.

"Besides, I love Kingman and I'm really glad I moved here. I love the school system and care about its families, staff, students and the community."