Every employee in the Lake Tahoe Unified School District will receive a raise following a unanimous decision by board members at a meeting Tuesday night.
Aside from a 1 percent pay increase last school year, the raises will be the first staff has received since 2006.
Compensation changes consist of 3 percent raises that will be retroactive to July 1, 2013, followed by 6.5 percent raises starting at the beginning of the 2014-15 fiscal year. They apply to all staff in the district, from bus drivers and teachers to principals and administrators.
“It really rewards the professionalism that teachers exhibit during these tough economic times, and they held their own,” said Superintendent James Tarwater, referring to the nationwide recession in the late 2000s.
Due to the high amount of dedication from district employees, LTUSD was able to keep its student programs while the economy was in turmoil, he said. Staff can now be properly rewarded for these efforts as the state directs more funds to education institutions.
“Most of the other school districts cut programs for kids,” Tarwater said of the recession. “During these last five tough years, where there wasn’t any money coming in and we lost $8 million, we were able to keep programs for our students.”
The district also supported raises because it wants to keep its skilled workforce, he said.
Last year, LTUSD lost 22 teachers to retirement.
“We want to stay competitive,” Tarwater said.
Approval of compensation changes came after LTUSD held a study session with Lake Tahoe Community College — the first joint meeting in years.
There, officials from the organizations discussed changes to a new method of election and the development of facilities and technology partnerships.
They also considered the move toward a seamless educational pathway, which involves aligning curriculums to accelerate student progression while reducing redundancies in the system.
Tom Greene, vice president of academic affairs and student services at LTCC, was one of the speakers who presented the vision for the pathway.
“What it meant to us was that individuals, families, and those considering residing in our community, will be presented with access to a clear educational path, from preschool to post-secondary education,” he said.
“And it means that the dialogue about considering these educational opportunities, and particularly at college education, will begin earlier in a student’s educational tenure,” Greene added. “Very early.”
Some of that vision has already come to light, with the schools working collaboratively on certain programs like dental assisting, digital media art/new media and culinary arts.
However, LTUSD and LTCC officials expressed interest in formalizing those educational paths and finding new ways to combine efforts in the future.
A $100,000 grant and $165,000 grant have already been awarded to the institutions for this goal.
Tarwater said the vision is still in its first stages, but leaders know where they want to take it.
“Where I’m excited, when we talk to the community college, is that we’re going to be able to use facilities on both sides, which will save taxpayers money,” Tarwater said at the meeting. “We will be able to enhance programs: We have this, you have this, and together we work, and the kids will be the benefit of it.”