Monday, May 3, 2004
Steamboat Springs The Knowledge and Skills-Based Pay system died Monday night -- at least in the eyes of a couple of the teachers who've spent years working on it.
The Steamboat Springs School Board unanimously approved a resolution that, among other things, declared KSBP unaffordable, particularly without a mechanism to control the number of teachers who can advance to the higher reaches of the salary schedule.
The district's ability to afford the progressive pay and evaluation system has been under scrutiny since an independent financial analysis completed two months ago predicted KSBP's implementation costs at more than $600,000 a year for the first 10 years.
After previously expressing optimism that KSBP could survive even with the projected cost increase, School Board members said Monday the district can't afford to devote any more of its revenue to salaries than it currently does.
"There's been hours and hours of discussion on affordability," School Board member Pat Gleason said. "We can afford what we have now."
School Board President Paula Stephenson said she's not comfortable asking the Education Fund Board to help financially support KSBP and that without student outcomes as part of the plan she wouldn't go to voters for a mill levy override, either.
"I'm just not confident enough in this plan to go to the voters," she said.
One of Stephenson's biggest concerns with the existing KSBP system is the absence of a control mechanism that prevents too many teachers from reaching the top levels of the salary schedule.
"That's a big sticking point for me," Stephenson said.
Teacher and KSBP committee member Celia Dunham said the School Board is slamming the door shut on the system without having any idea whether a rigorous evaluation system would provide the built-in control mechanism School Board members seek.
"We haven't even scored a single portfolio and they've already said it won't work," Dunham said.
KSBP aims to recruit and retain high-quality teachers and support staff by paying teachers based upon their performance in the classroom rather than how many years they've taught. Under the proposed system, teachers would be evaluated largely through classroom observations and detailed portfolios. District teachers and a previous School Board approved a pay schedule for the undeveloped KSBP system several years ago, and the KSBP committee has been working on its evaluation system ever since.
Gleason repeatedly praised the years of work by the KSBP committee and insisted the School Board's resolution is just a change of course for the plan.
"In my mind, it's a mid-course correction," he said. "We don't need to change what it is."
For KSBP committee members such as Dunham and Mike Smith, the School Board's resolution mandates a complete change to the philosophy and design of a system they've spent years developing.
The resolution directs Superintendent Donna Howell to work with the KSBP committee to continue refining the evaluation component of the system -- provided it's separate from teacher compensation. It also asks Howell to explore other models of alternative compensation, such as salary add-ons.
The evaluation system developed for KSBP is one contingent upon a direct correlation between teacher performance and teacher salary, KSBP committee members said. Anything less will require an entirely different evaluation system.
"It's an excellent evaluation system for this salary schedule," Smith said. "It will never be a stand-alone evaluation system.
Although he voted in favor of the resolution, School Board member Jeff Troeger was the only one to not completely dismiss KSBP's affordability.
"There's a lot of money (in our budget), and to me it comes down to priorities," Troeger said.
The district also has $6.7 million in reserves that some KSBP committee members believe could be used to help implement the system.
While teachers such as Dunham and Smith saw Monday's resolution as an end to KSBP, School Board members saw it as an opportunity to adjust and refine the system.
"It seems like this leaves the door open enough to explore other directions," School Board member Michael Loomis said.
That door may only stay open long enough for the teachers who have spent years working on KSBP to walk out of the room.
"We can't really go forward with this," Dunham said. "We can't go forward with it as a non-salary evaluation system."