Fort Smith superintendent pay increase percentage higher than certified staff

by Tina Alvey Dale ([email protected]) 4,729 views 

When Dr. Terry Morawski’s contract as superintendent for Fort Smith Public Schools was recently extended, his contracted salary was set at 14.47% higher than his salary approved Dec. 30, 2020. Certified staff pay has on average increased 1.11% during that same time.

FSPS Chief Financial Officer Charles Warren said the new schedule that will determine teacher salaries for the 22-23 contract year “has not yet been presented to the school board.”

The FSPS Board of Education voted to hire Morawski, then deputy superintendent, Nov. 30, 2020, as the district’s new superintendent beginning Dec. 31, 2020, with an annual salary of $215,292. His contract ran through June 20, 2023. That salary was the same as the salary for then superintendent Dr. Doug Brubaker, who resigned from his position to take the superintendent position with the Texarkana, Texas, Independent School District.

According to the 2021-2022 employee contracts posted on the FSPS website, Morawski’s annual salary for this school year was $227,348.35, a 5.6% increase from the salary listed when he was hired. In addition to his salary increase, the 2021-22 contract also shows a miscellaneous superintendent payment to Morawski of $15,089.28 to be paid in 24 installments over the year. That payment is not factored into the 14.47% base salary increase.

Following Morawski’s annual review Monday (March 28), the school board voted to extend his contract through June 30, 2025. The contract sets compensation at $246,445.61 annually, which “constitutes an increase equal to the Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers for the South as calculated by the U.S. Department of Labor for the February 2022 published 12-month period.” The new contract pay is an 8.4% increase from his 2021-22 annual salary, according to his contract, which is inline with that price index.

“In the two years (FY22 and FY23) since his base year contract (Jan, 2021 to Jun, 2021) the superintendent’s contract has gone up an accumulated $31,153.63,” Warren noted in a statement to Talk Business & Politics.

While Warren mentions two fiscal years, the approval of increases of a combined 14.47% were within 15 months since his hiring as superintendent, with compensation moves in 18 months.

Warren said the average pay increase for certified staff for the 2021-22 school year was $621.80 or 1.11%.

Warren reported to the school board in May 2021 that new revenue for the district and trend analysis of replacement savings would only generate enough funds to cover the cost of employees moving to a new step on the existing salary schedules. Warren said there was no funding to increase the certified salary schedule base. The certified base salary also did not increase in 2020-21. The base salary for teachers increased $250 in 2016-17; $200 in 2017-18; $100 in 2018-19; and $450 in 2019-20. A “step” represents a year of experience, according to Warren.

“A first-year teacher qualifies for ‘step 1.’ When the teacher returns the next school year, the teacher moves to ‘step 2,” Warren said.

Teachers move to a new step at the start of a new school year. Because there are some employees who had reached step 21, the last step on the schedule, and others who were at steps that do not include a pay increase, not all certified employees had a pay increase in 2021.

A statement from the district noted, “In FY 2022, the range of dollar increases for teachers only was $1,540.00 with a range of percentages of zero to 3.29%.”

School Board member Dalton Person has said via social media that teacher salary increases are being considered, but no meeting agenda on the issue has been made public.

“The Fort Smith Public Schools Board of Education has emphasized the importance of making an impact on teachers’ salaries in FY23. The superintendent, CFO and other district leaders are reviewing revenue projections and will make salary recommendations to the Board of Education after enrollment numbers are set in mid April. ‘Enrollment’ is the last of the four considerations – including Assessments, Millage and Foundation Funding Rates – necessary to solidify salary proposals,” noted a statement from Zena Featherston Marshall, FSPS executive director of communication and community partnerships.