Teachers receive supplemental pay UP, Downsville charter enter lease agreement for surplus busses

The Union Parish School Board at its regular monthly meeting Monday approved one-time supplemental paychecks for current employees and approved retention and recruitment supplements for certified teachers who renew their contracts and new certified teachers hired for the coming year.

The supplemental pay approved by the board is as follows:

  • Certified teachers and administrators who were employed by the district on the last day of the recent school year will receive salary supplements of $2,500.
  • Support staff who were employed with the district on the last day of school will receive salary supplements of $1,250.
  • Certified teachers already employed by the district who renew their contracts for the coming year before the end of June will receive a retention supplement of $5,000.
  • New certified teachers hired for the 2023-24 school year will receive a $5,000 recruitment supplement, half of which will be paid September 1 and the other half will be paid in January of next year.

The salary supplements are paid for by higher than anticipated sales tax collections during the previous year, while the recruitment and retention pay is funded with a Title I allocation, Superintendent Kristy Fine said. Title I is a federal program managed by state education departments that provides funding for school districts with disproportionately high poverty rates.

In April the district approved a five-year strategic plan which calls for recruitment and retention pay to be in place by 2026, so this week’s announcement puts the district two years ahead of schedule.

“The Board, the leadership team and I are thrilled to offer this supplement and hope it makes us more competitive with neighboring districts,” Fine said.

At $42,000, the starting pay for first year teachers in Union Parish is thousands of dollars less than the pay offered by surrounding school districts. First year teachers in Ouachita and Lincoln parishes and across the border in Arkansas all start at $50,000 or more.

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In May, the Board voted to accept bids for the mineral rights lease on a property in Haile the mineral rights for which are owned by the school district; however, a potential bidder expressed an interest in also leasing the mineral rights to a separate but nearby property also owned by the district. The Board voted Monday to accept bids for the mineral rights to both properties, requiring a minimum bid of $80 per mineral acre.

The Board also voted to lease seven busses at $11,000 per bus to the Downsville Community Charter School for the coming school year. The Union Parish School District has a surplus of busses purchased with bond money, which means they cannot be sold until the bonds expire. Rather than allow the busses to sit idle, the Board elected to lease them to DCCS.

According to the school district’s transportation and maintenance supervisor, Dr. Robby Lindsey, the deal is a win-win.

“We gave them a better deal than what they are paying now,” Lindsey said. “It’s a good thing for them and us. They save some money and we get some revenue out of our surplus busses; and it all stays in Union Parish.”

The Board voted not to renew the lease of the building that houses the Rocky Branch Community Center after members of the board raised concerns about the $100 monthly rent.

“That amount might not even cover what we pay to insure the building,” Board member Cassandra Neal said. “I think we should at least try to make sure we aren’t losing money.”

The Board then went into executive session to deliver its annual “evaluation and professional competency” of Superintendent Fine. State law allows public bodies to conduct employee evaluations in private.

Superintendent Fine is in the last year of her contract, which will be up for renewal at the end of the 2023-24 school year.

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