They also heard an update on the construction of Lakeland Preparatory Middle School, discussed teachers’ salaries and conducted routine school board business.
Dr. James B. Mitchell Jr. of Southern Educational Strategies said the LMPS project is on time and within its budget. Brick and stone masons are finished, and the majority of mechanical, electrical, plumbing and roofing work is done. Within the next three and one-half months, the project will ramp up with at least 25 other subcontractors doing extensive work over the summer.
Teachers’ salaries also drew discussion after Lakeland Elementary physical education teacher Whitney Ross spoke up at the meeting. She asked the board to carefully consider teacher salaries and raises.
She said the members of the Germantown Arlington Lakeland Education Association (GALEA) fully support the proposed budget for the next school year. She also asked the board to consider implementing the 4 percent raises that Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam has proposed.
“In order to attract and maintain the best teachers, LSS has to have a salary that is competitive with other school districts in the state,” she said.
Later in the meeting, Superintendent Dr. Ted Horrell thanked Ross for her advocacy and responded. He said Haslam’s proposed raise is a statewide average, and it is applied unevenly across the state, depending on factors such as the cost of living for teachers in certain school areas and their relative pay levels. According to the latest data from the Tennessee Education Association website, he said Lakeland Elementary’s average salaries are the third highest in the state.
First is Shelby County Schools with an average salary of $57,843, followed by Bartlett City Schools at $57,843.44 and Lakeland School System at $57,841.97. (That’s compared to the low end of the scale, at $36,928.)
He also reassured her that rewarding LSS’s teachers for excellence will continue to be a high priority. He said the district:
- Added performance bonuses last year and continued them for the upcoming school year. He estimated that 98 percent of LSS teachers receive this bonus. “We made sure we had a structure where all of the teachers in the building were eligible for those performance areas.”
- Has given “step” increases each year. Step increases are salary bumps for longevity.
- Added another lane to salary schedules for teachers with advanced degrees.
- Added an annual retention bonus.
- Has used increases in state funding to increase staffing and add back some teaching assistants.
In other business, the board also approved board member Geoff Hick’s draft of a resolution on partisan election of school board members. It takes a stand against a proposed amendment to Tennessee Senate Bill 580 and House Bill 992.
The board also rescheduled the May business meeting to May 1 and canceled the month’s work session to accommodate board members’ schedules.
All school board members were present at the April 10 meeting except for Laura Harrison.
Editor’s note: See the audiovisual recordings of all school board and city meetings online at livestream.com/lakeland.