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Veteran Teachers In Lee’s Summit Complain They Get Paid Less Than Newer Colleagues

Lee's Summit R-7 Schools
Lee's Summit NEA President Heather Crain addresses the school board at the March 12 meeting.

Educators who’ve taught in Lee’s Summit for a long time are frustrated that repeated salary freezes mean they’re making less than colleagues who are new to the district. 

Jessica Hill, a Lee’s Summit West history teacher, says she makes $3,500 less than her husband, also a teacher in the district, even though they both have master’s degrees and nine years of experience.

“My salary has been frozen three times in the five years since I have been hired. However, teachers coming into LSR7 continue to receive all of their years of experience as steps on the salary schedule,” Hill said during public comment at Thursday’s school board meeting.

A salary schedule gives teachers incremental raises based on how long they’ve been teaching. Lee’s Summit denotes steps on its salary schedule with letters – first-year teachers are on step A, second-year teachers are on step B and so on. 

But Heather Crain, the president of the Lee’s Summit National Education Association, said that isn’t how it works after several rounds of salary freezes.

“Currently, new employees are being placed on the lettered step equivalent to their years of experience. Veteran employees are being told that steps do not equate to years of experience. This leaves considerable discrepancies in pay between veteran and new teachers,” Crain said.

When board members asked Wesley Metz, the district’s chief financial officer, if they could get a report on the disparities, he said it wouldn’t be easy to generate before the next board meeting.

“In my opinion, the only way we could properly do it would be to evaluate each individual person as they were hired, determine how they were placed initially and then look to see if we can make adjustments,” Metz said, which he said would take his team several weeks.

But assuming many of the district’s teachers are behind three or four steps, Metz said it will cost upwards of $5 million to get them caught up.

Emily Miller, the district’s interim superintendent, urged the board to focus on the issue at hand – approving the compensation and benefit package for the 2020-21 school year, which they did. 

The contract gives all teachers a step increase, with an average raise of 2.58%.

But Hill, the high school history teacher, said that’s not enough. She said it’ll only get her to step G on the salary schedule when she should be on step J, where her husband will be.

“See us as community members invested in Lee's Summit, not paychecks you sign once a month,” Hill said.

Elle Moxley covers education for KCUR. You can reach her on Twitter @ellemoxley.

Elle Moxley covered education for KCUR.
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