By Hillary S. Meeks
Killeen Daily Herald
Pay raises were the most-discussed topic at the Killeen Independent School District board of trustees meeting Tuesday, though many other items were also brought to the board's attention during the public forum.
According to Robert Muller, KISD assistant superintendent of administration and operations, there are three kinds of contracts offered by the district: administrative, teacher and professional certified support.
There are 29 people on the district's payroll who currently have a teacher contract but are not what the state Legislature deems as classroom teachers under House Bill 1.
HB 1, passed in May, requires all full-time licensed counselors, librarians, nurses and classroom teachers to be given a state-funded $2,500 annual raise.
Those 29 employees were scheduled to receive that raise, as they signed teacher contracts in April, before the Legislature clarified the definition of a classroom teacher, Muller said.
KISD has chosen to honor existing teacher contracts rather than change them to professional certified
support contracts and will pay the extra raises out of its own pocket, KISD Superintendent Jim Hawkins said.
Not everyone is happy with the understanding. Employees under a professional certified support contract with the district believe they also should receive the $2,500 pay raise.
"Those who are saying they should have gotten (the raise), that's not constituted with state legislation," Hawkins said. "We need to get this clean and bright so we know who is a teacher and who isn't."
Next year, only those who meet the state's definition of a classroom teacher will be given a teacher's contract, he noted.
Hawkins said all employees, except administration, were given an across-the-board raise of 2.75 percent from the mid-point of their pay schedule, including those who received the $2,500 raise. He said that prior to the passing of HB1, there was a fair and equitable pay raise plan, but the legislative special session changed that.
"It begins to emphasize that when the state gets that specific in its directive, then it messes things up," Hawkins said.
Those voicing concern during the public forum included KISD high school business applications teacher Sharon Smitherman and KISD parent of two, Larry Stokes. Both were upset about changes the district has made in the past year.
Smitherman said that teachers of non-foundation classes required to teach six periods under a change of scheduling are stressed and can't teach their classes properly.
At the same time, Smitherman said, foundation, or core subject teachers who instruct for five periods, "don't want to talk about it because they're afraid they'll be teaching six classes next year."
She also said that the way KISD pays its teachers is discouraging them to stay on a long-term basis, and many less-experienced teachers are "district hopping" to make more money.
On another matter, Stokes expressed his displeasure with the district for dissolving some special programs this past year, specifically the dyslexia program. He used his own struggle as a child with dyslexia as an example, stressing he would never have overcome it if his mother had not paid extra for him to attend an after-school program.
"You spend $2 million to put grass on the football field. Not every kid in KISD is going to play football, but every kid needs to learn how to read," Stokes said.
Contact Hillary S. Meeks at firstname.lastname@example.org