Schools and businesses working on solution to teacher pay raises

1506
Elm Grove Middle School STEM Teacher Spencer Kiper addresses the Bossier Parish School Board at their May 16 meeting. (Stacey Tinsley/Press-Tribune)

By Stacey Tinsley, stinsley@bossierpress.com

Following the failure of a property tax proposal to fund teacher raises and tech improvements in Bossier Schools that divided the community, what is being done to find a solution and begin to heal the fractures?

On May 4, Bossier Parish voters voted against two property tax proposals that would have increased employee pay and provided a funding source for technology. That vote came after there were contentious campaigns launched against the vote and social media interaction. 

The Bossier Chamber of Commerce was vocal in that it was prepared to take the lead to assemble a group of community leaders to discuss the next steps for the education system and our business community. 

On May 5, they launched a social media campaign #BetterTogether, asking the community to come together to have a conversation on how to move forward and come to a reasonable conclusion that would involve all stakeholders in the discussion.

The following week, the Bossier Chamber participated in a meeting with business leaders and school officials to begin working together on the community’s next steps. This meeting, by all accounts, was a great start in the collaboration process.

“We hope the community can truly come together to find solutions that meet the needs of our teachers and support staff while encouraging a strong business climate,” said Lisa Johnson, president and CEO of the Bossier Chamber of Commerce. 

As previously reported by the Press-Tribune last week, the Bossier Parish School Board updated the public on teacher pay raises at the regular school board meeting Thursday, May 16.

Board Member Dennis Bamburg addressed the audience at the School Board meeting saying himself, Superintendent Mitch Downey, Board President Shane Cheatham, and Chief Financial Officer Frank Rougeau have been meeting with community partners and members within the business community to find a resolution and work together as one.

“This meeting was scheduled in advance of the election, regardless of the outcome. This was done primarily because both sides acknowledged that the relationship between the parties needed to be addressed and resolved,” Bamburg said. “We will continue to collaborate with this group in hopes that we can come to an arrangement that will create a salary schedule for our employees. It will no longer be an ‘Us vs. Them’ mentality, it will be a ‘We’ mentality.”

Bamburg advised the meeting’s audience that over the summer the school board will go through their budget line by line making adjustments and even look at a possible four-day school week.

“One item that has been discussed is a four-day work week. We must get data first from other parishes who do this and gather information from our employees on their overall interest level,” Bamburg said. “This is not something that will be put in place next school year.”