Computer technician Lisa Manlove is excited the Lawrence school board has decided to search for a better way to set salaries for her and about 800 other classified workers.
"It's something we've needed to do for a long time," said Manlove, who manages the district's student and administrative software and is a six-year district veteran.
Lawrence school administrators for decades kicked around the possibility of a comprehensive classified employee job and salary study, but nothing came out of it.
The need for a review of the compensation system became more apparent in recent years as annual staff turnover boiled over 35 percent. That turnover, district administrators suspect, is due to wages that can't compete with the private sector.
Supt. Randy Weseman and the school board decided Monday to hire Educational Management Solutions of Murphys, Calif., to sort it all out.
The company is expected to complete the $40,000 study in December.
"We've been talking about this for 25 years," Weseman said. "I was hoping in my lifetime to get this studied, to get this fixed."
The district has nearly 800 classified hourly employees divided among 120 separate job descriptions for custodial, maintenance, secretarial, bookkeeping and food-service work. Classified employees also provide administrative support, or work as paraeducators or technicians.
The current classification system is a burden to administer, officials said. Questions of fairness in the setting of employee salaries have become an issue. In some cases, job descriptions don't adequately reflect actual duties.
"I'm really, really excited about this," said Mary Rodriguez, the district's director of human resources. "To me, this shows the board's commitment to review this and that they do value classified staff."
She said Educational Management Solutions would update job descriptions, analyze the equity of the district's salary schedule and conduct a market survey of similar salaries and benefits. Company representatives will meet with all employees before developing strategies for reforming the system and design an appeal process if employees don't agree with conclusions about their job.
In addition, EMS is obligated to provide the district with software capable of tracking classified employee compensation.
Sue Morgan, school board president, said the study would be a road map for improving the compensation. But coming up with money to finance the consultant's recommendations will be the biggest challenge, she said.
"This has been a very long time in coming," she said. "This is the first big step."
Bryan Hunter, the district's supervisor of maintenance, represented classified employees on a trip district staff took to Salina to examine results of that school district's classified salary study.
Hunter, who has worked in the Lawrence district 26 years, said salary studies typically show that workers in the trades, including plumbing, electrical and heating, ventilation and air conditioning, were underpaid.
"Trades people in town with job skills would generally make more than what they pay in the district," he aid.
He also said other school districts were able to pay higher salaries for custodial staff, which has been one of the Lawrence district's highest areas of turnover.