Big raises on the way for Bayfield schools

“I think we’re making a huge commitment to our staff,” Superintendent Leon Hanhardt said when proposing sizable raises for teachers and other certified staff members to the Bayfield School District Board of Education at their April 23 meeting. 

A work session had been held prior to the meeting where Hanhardt went over the budget for next year and briefed the board on his salary proposal. He noted that non-certified staff had already been given a boost in pay earlier in the year, but his proposal did include an additional — if smaller — increase for those members of his team as well.

“We did give a large raise to all classified staff in October — a mid-year raise — and these salary schedules do include an additional raise to classified staff, so every staff member in the district would receive a raise through this,” he concluded before recommending the board increase the base pay for certified staff by $8,000. 

This amount was considerably higher than what was projected when district leaders first began discussing raises several months back.

“In our original conversation when we presented this to staff back in February, we were looking at a $3,000 raise for certified staff added to the base, as well as a step,” Hanhardt said. “Since then, in our conversations as we looked at the budget I have recommended or communicated to staff that we were going to look at a $5,000 raise in addition to base.”

Earlier in the month, the superintendent had suggested to the board that belt-tightening and budget consciousness throughout district operations over the year may have created enough room for bigger raises, and at this week’s meeting he was obviously pleased to suggest that salary increases could be even larger than leaders had been willing to hope for just a couple of months ago.

“My recommendation going into tonight was an $8,000 raise to base, as well as a step,” Hanhardt said. A “step” is an increase given to teachers for each year they are employed in the district, and that employee retention tool amounts to an additional $900 raise for each year a teacher stays in the district.

The board expressed support for the raises and acknowledged that there is a need to better compensate educators across the country.

“I feel like teachers across the whole U.S. are underpaid, not only here but everywhere. These individuals are creating our doctors, our lawyers, our superintendents, our everybody and we are paying them a minute wage, which is just ridiculous to me,” board member Justin Talbot said. “I’m for giving them as much as we can, with a comfort level of making sure that we can afford that and stay within our budget parameters.”

“We need to be able to have some longevity with that, and be sure that we are able to offer that year after year,” Board Chair Rebecca Parnell confirmed.

“I’m confident with the recommendation of $8,000 that we can sustain that,” Hanhardt professed.

Board member Molly Orendorff made the motion to approve an increase of $8,000 for all certified staff members, as well as the proposed increases for classified staff, and Board Secretary/Treasurer Matt Turner seconded the motion before it was approved unanimously.

“I still don’t think we are where we want to be when it comes to teacher pay…but I am so excited that we get to do something like this,” Parnell said.

The increase will bring the base pay for a first-year teacher in Bayfield to $48,000, which is nearly a 33% increase over the base rate of $36,200 that was paid to beginning teachers when Hanhardt took over as Superintendent only two years ago.

“A goal of this administration since we started was to right the wages and continue to look at that. I know it is the right thing to do,” Hanhardt agreed. “This is significant in a short amount of time, and we are doing what we should be doing, and that is reward the staff.”

Hanhardt indicated to the board that he would not submit final contracts until the final budget is approved at the next board meeting, and he cautioned that they needed to await final legislative approval of the state budget. At the same time, he expressed confidence that the district would be able to cover the cost of the salary increases based on projected state funding for 2024-25.

“On behalf of the staff and everybody in the district, thank you,” Hanhardt told the board after they approved the raises. “That is huge.”