Educators have worked hard to find room in the Kirkwood School District's budget to increase teacher salaries and their efforts have paid off.
The Kirkwood School Board approved a 2012-2013 certified teacher salary package Monday that adds $584,361 in new money to teacher salaries and benefits.
The figure signifies a 1.76 percent funding increase with 1.24 percent devoted to salaries and 0.52 percent devoted to benefits.
"I believe this package will competitively compensate teachers and attract and retain the best teachers," Assistant Superintendent Jeanette Tendai told the board. She noted that this is the third year the district has held the starting salary for a first year teacher with a bachelor's degree at $42,300.
Last year school board members told district officials that they would not approve more than a 2 percent increase in funding.
"With the continued poor economy we understand the district's challenge of providing compensation for its dedicated staff while continuing to be financially responsible," said Keith Price, a co-chair and spokesperson for a committee of teachers and who worked with school officials on the package.
Price said the group had to be creative in its approach which meant reallocating funds from other areas of the salary package and placing them directly into teacher salaries. The move resulted in some freezes and decreases to areas of the salary package which provides teachers extra pay for extra duty compensation.
"It was our goal to provide fair and equitable raises for all certified staff and with this proposal, we feel we have accomplished our goal," Price said.
Members of the school board thanked the committee for their hard work in the face of a downed economy.
"We appreciate you understanding the difficult situation we're in and how tight it is from a budgetary standpoint," board secretary Andy Stewart said.
Others on the board pointed to the salary package as an example of the strong working relationship between stakeholders in the .
"You read about how in a lot of districts the board, administration and teachers are very adversarial which is not the case in Kirkwood," board vice president Angie Bay said.
Attendees of the school board meeting applauded after the board unanimously approved the package.