EPS pay raise
The Edmond Public Schools Administration Building is located at 1001 W. Danforth Road. (Joe Tomlinson)

The Edmond Association of Classroom Teachers and the Support Employees of Edmond unions have voted overwhelmingly to ratify their respective agreements with the Edmond Public Schools Board of Education for the upcoming 2023-24 school year, providing the biggest EPS pay raise ever for support staff employees.

“Most people I’ve talked to are happy,” Bob Campbell, SEE president, said of his approximately 150-member group. “Especially the ones that have been here a long time. They understand that they’ve never gotten a raise this big, and this
raise is across the board for all support employees.”

At the Aug. 7 board meeting, the EPS Board approved its end of each agreement with both unions. Following the board’s vote, EACT and SEE each held electronic votes amongst their members to approve or decline their respective agreements. By the 5 p.m. deadline today, about 98 percent of EACT members voted to approve their agreement, while about 95 percent of SEE members voted to approve their agreement, according to union leaders.

The EPS board’s agreement with SEE added $1.80 per hour for all support employees and a step increase to all salary schedules.

Campbell said that while “specialty groups” — positions such as bus drivers that often feature critical shortages — can typically count on raises each year, this EPS contract is the first in a long time to feature a significant raise across the board for all support employees.

“If you’re in a group that is not having any problems [hiring applicants], then they don’t look at you,” Campbell said. “So that’s what we’re trying to eliminate, and these past two years we did.”

Other significant changes included in the agreement for support employees include:

  • A new memorandum of understanding implementing a new state law granting six weeks of paid maternity leave for “female common education employees who have worked full time for the district or entity for at least one year and worked at least 1,250 hours during the 12 months prior to the maternity leave request;
  • A new MOU to provide a $250 stipend to any EPS employee who recommends a person for employment as a bus driver; and
  • Employees who take personal leave on school closure days will no longer see those days docked against their accrued leave.

For the Edmond Association of Classroom Teachers, an approximately 700-member organization, the new agreement includes raises for special education teachers and increased stipends for middle school coaches beyond the statewide pay raises approved by the Oklahoma Legislature in May.

“We’re rewarding those who stayed,” EACT President Chelsea Foo said of the raises for special education teachers. “We’re rewarding the teachers who are mentoring the younger special ed teachers with an increased percentage (of salary raise) because specialized departments whether they’re in a small school or a large school really need to work as a team.”

Foo said it is important for EPS to retain special education teachers owing to the high number of special education students in the district.

“I believe last year (…) one in four new students was a special ed student,” Foo said. “So that burden has become increasingly complex, and we are competing with other districts for a limited supply of special ed teachers.”

Special education teachers will see a salary increase ranging from 6 percent to 8 percent, depending on experience, she said.

Foo added she was also particularly happy about the increased middle school coach stipends. High school coach stipends increased two years ago, Foo explained.

“[Coaching] is a lot of after-school time, so it’s a lot of time off-contract,” Foo said. “Again, it’s rewarding people who are putting in that extra effort.”

Other significant contract changes in the new EPS and EACT agreement include:

  • Added language clarifying that bereavement leave may be used for loss of pregnancy;
  • A new MOU implementing the new state law granting six weeks of paid maternity leave for teachers;
  • An additional $250 pay raise added to the base pay of all salary schedules;
  • An additional $500 pay raise added to the base pay of all salary schedules for teachers who have been teaching 31 to 40 years; and
  • Increased stipends for teachers who also take on extra responsibilities.

Foo met with EPS board members while they were in executive session at their meeting Aug. 7. Foo said that while she and her vice president did not discuss specifics with the board, they explained feelings on their side about the potential new deal.

“Our district, our board members want to know that the teachers have got something that they can be proud of that they can say, ‘Hey, this is a good deal.’ They don’t want teachers to feel like they have to vote no,” Foo said. “I don’t know if other districts do that, but it to me is very impressive that they question us in detail, not about the facts of the agreement, but more the feeling that we have walked away with.”

Foo said that while the contract includes EPS pay raises to incentivize teachers to stay in their positions for at least a few more years, it also helps when the Legislature enacts statewide teacher pay raises.

“When you get a nice state pay raise like we got, it does encourage teachers to stay in the classroom,” Foo said. “So we were really thrilled when the Legislature passed that because, if you get a large pay raise and you stay in the classroom more years, your teacher retirement is going to increase.”

EPS students are set to return to the classroom Thursday for the start of the 2023-2024 school year.

EPS pay raise spurred by statewide increase

Marcus Jones, EPS District 5 board member, said the statewide pay increase for certified teachers allowed the district to direct its focus on support staff.

“I don’t believe that it would have happened if the state hadn’t pumped in some money for the teachers because some of that (district) money would have had to have gone to teachers, and there just wouldn’t have been enough money around,” Jones said. “But because they actually gave the teachers the pay raise, the district was able to focus a little bit more on the support employees to kind of shore up some of those areas.”

One of those positions that EPS has struggled to fill is bus drivers. With the pay increase, Jones said, district bus drivers will make more than $18 per hour. At the time of this article’s publication, the district had 10 open bus driver positions posted on its website.

“It should be very close to the top of the metro,” Jones said of the increased bus driver salaries.

In an attempt to recruit and retain teachers, EPS opened a child care center at 45 E. 12th St. earlier this month for district employees.

“When you have that many new teachers, most of them are young. Whenever it comes to them starting to have kids or having kids, and it comes to child care, the question is, ‘How do you keep them in the workforce?'” Jones said. “An at cost day care center would go a long way for keeping those teachers teaching versus them either finding a different career or staying home.”

Both union presidents said they hope the new EPS agreements will motivate future hirings to combat teacher and support staff shortages.

“Almost every department is short somebody,” Campbell said. “You can walk in and pretty much pick your job and get an interview.”

Open positions at Edmond Public Schools