Scottsdale school teachers to see slight bump in 2017-18 compensation

The Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board is comprised of, from left, Sandy Kravetz, Allyson Beckham, Kim Hartmann, Pam Kirby, and Barbara Perleberg. Superintendent Dr. Denise Birdwell and Executive Administrative Coordinator Sondra Como are also pictured. (photo by Melissa Fittro)

The Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board unanimously passed next year’s compensation package — which included an unforeseen salary raise — at its March 21 regular board meeting.

The governing board meeting, held at Coronado High School, 7501 E. Virginia Ave., included a number of discussions and action items, in addition to the compensation package presented by Assistant Superintendent of Personnel and Specialized Services, Dr. Pam Sitton.

The compensation package approval comes days after the governing board voted to suspend portions of its Teacher Employment Agreement in order to pursue new teachers in a timely fashion.

The 2017-18 compensation package must be agreed upon and approved by the governing board, before teachers can be presented with their annual contract.

Next year’s contract is based upon a 186-day work calendar, after the addition of three more undetermined professional development days.

“When I joined this board, given the revenue and tax base in Arizona, I would have never thought you would even be able to offer teachers an increase in compensation this year,” SUSD governing board member Allyson Beckham said.

“I’m even more excited that we’ve really been looking outside the box and really looking at truly investing in your teachers, and one of the ways we really invest in our teachers is through professional development.”

The district’s 3,000 contracts are expected to be given to teachers by March 28, district officials said.

“This is the compensation, this evening, is predicted on budgeting staying exactly the same next year, as it is today, with a slight influx in ADM,” explained Superintendent Dr. Denise Birdwell.

“But the reality is, the funding sources are exactly the same. So anything this team is going to share with you, is because there have been significant reductions in budgeting in various areas to create increase for others.”

The raises found in the compensation package are due to the abolishment of administration jobs, and finding efficiencies within the budget, according to Dr. Sitton.

“There is also administrators and administrative support efficiencies and effectiveness in different positions — some of those changes were on the consent agenda this evening that you approved,” Dr. Sitton explained. “Those dollars from the abolishments are dollars that make up the administrative $693,000 you see on the screen.”

So far, seven abolishments have been approved:

  • Sylvia Cohen, special education/lead psychologist;
  • Christine Edwards, special education/behavior intervention specialist;
  • Matthew Lins, support SVCS/program specialist;
  • Mitchell von Gnechten, education leadership/executive director-secondary;
  • Vacant, SIMAR/director of assessment;
  • Vacant, Alt. education/admin on assignment;
  • Vacant, superintendent-governing board/district planning and design.

Other abolishments are expected to be announced next month, Dr. Sitton said.

Savings to the package added up to $2,277,084; while the total salary increase is $2,531,125.

The increases are being given to certified step (2 percent); horizontal; beginning salary; classified (1 percent); support exempt/administration (1 percent).

“For classified employees it is 1 percent for classified employees that are at, or above, $10.40,” said Dr. Sitton.

“Reason why we added that this year, is because minimum wage went up to $10, so those employees had a raise this past January. It goes up to $10.50 this coming up January of 2018, so anyone that’s below that $10.40 will go ahead and get an adjustment come January.”

The increase to minimum wage is an issue the district will need to address further in the future, Dr. Birdwell says.

“We have taken a very bold step of shifting money out of administrative costs and putting it back into the classroom,” said Dr. Birdwell. “Making sure that no principal makes less than an assistant principal; making sure our principals are market appropriate so we don’t lose them to the neighbors; and to continue to respect our classified employees.”

The task to look for money within the budget is one that the governing board directed the district cabinet to dive into.

“I’ve been on this board for six years and I always believed that when administration said ‘we’re waiting on the state,’ I believed it was nothing more than an excuse to give no raises to teachers,” said Governing Board Vice President Pam Kirby.

“And the reason I believed that is because I believed there was money in the existing budget we already had to go find, to put the money in the classroom — put the money in the teacher’s pocket.”

Ms. Kirby says when Dr. Birdwell first joined the district, and again when she was appointed to a permanent contract, she begged for staff to find the extra money.

“I am beyond grateful for the effort that has been put forth,” she said.

“And this year, when we have gotten no more money from the state, that we are giving our teaches a raise. That’s the first time that’s happened since I’ve been on the board to my recollection.”

Northeast Valley News Editor Melissa Rosequist can be e-mailed at or can be followed on Twitter at

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