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Montezuma-Cortez schools make pay strides

The Montezuma-Cortez Board of Education is considering a proposal to increase the salary for a beginning teacher to $36,000, a $4,443 increase.
Proposed salary schedule would give significant pay increases amid shorter four-day weeks

The Montezuma-Cortez Board of Education discussed proposed salary schedules Tuesday that would boost pay for district staff in the 2022-2023 school year.

And while district staff generally would work the same total hours, they would work fewer days because of the new four-day calendar.

No employee would experience a dip in pay with the suggested salary schedule.

The initiative, if approved by the board, would retain and attract new talent to the school district, said Kyle Archibeque, executive director of finance.

Archibeque presented the revised salaries to the board. He and the district’s other executive directors, Cynthia Eldredge and Jim Parr, developed the proposal.

Interim Superintendent Tom Burris provided some insight into the pay initiatives.

Currently, beginning teachers in Cortez start at a base salary of $31,557. The district proposes to bump that number up to $36,000 – a $4,443, or 14%, increase.

A second salary tier was suggested to give “maxed-out” teachers a raise. The district proposes to add another each year.

The gradual addition of pay steps would help keep the district from “hiring somebody that gets paid more than somebody already in the district,” Burris said.

Although adding pay grades is a “long-term project,“ Burris said, the district eventually could attract teachers with decades of experience.

Expanding the number of pay tiers would help make the district competitive with others. Many districts have nine pay tiers for teachers with a bachelor’s degree, while the Montezuma-Cortez district had 10 this year and proposes 11 at the start of the 2022-2023 school year, said board Director Layne Frazier.

Examples of other proposed shifts
  • Transportation technicians: $36,000 base salary, up from $31,565, a 14% increase.
  • Bus drivers: $17 per hour, up from $13.63, a 25% increase.
  • Bus aides: $13.97 per hour, up from $12.75, a 10% increase.
  • Cooks and carryout workers: $13.97 per hour, up from $12.75, a 10% increase.
  • Kitchen managers: $15.75 per hour, up from $13.91, a 13% increase.
  • Paraprofessionals: $17,500 base salary, up from $15,975, a 10% increase.
  • Custodians $29,150 salary, up from $26,621, a 10% increase.
  • Elementary school principal: $66,000, up from $60,995, an 8% increase.
  • Middle school principal: $72,000, up from $68,351, a 5% base salary increase.
  • High school principal: $75,000, up from $69,609, an 8% increase.
  • Assistant superintendent: $90,000, up from $82,265, a 9% increase.

Board Director Sherri Wright said she supported a $40,000 base salary for teachers, but understood the district was doing what it could to elevate pay.

“I’m just so excited though,” board President Sheri Noyes said. “I knew we could do it somehow.”

Salary schedules for coaches will be discussed later.

The full proposed salary schedule can be viewed on the district’s website under the April 5 board meeting packet.

Archibeque framed the salary schedule with the district’s competitors in mind: the Archuleta, Montrose, Durango, Bayfield, Ignacio, Delta, Dolores, Mancos, Silverton and Dove Creek School districts.

Discussions about pay have come to the forefront of recent school board discussions in several districts.

In New Mexico, the minimum starting salary for teachers recently was bumped to $50,000.

Dolores School District RE-4A Superintendent Reece Blincoe previously said he is aiming to raise salary for a starting teacher to $40,000 within the next few years. The starting salary in the district is currently about $32,500.

The Mancos School District RE-6 Board of Education began discussing salary schedules during a meeting Feb. 14. Superintendent Todd Cordrey said conversations about salary increases likely would begin in May.

The current base salary for a beginning teacher in Mancos is $32,640.