Lawrence school board, teachers agree to contract

Lawrence Public Schools district offices, 110 McDonald Drive.

The Lawrence school board unanimously approved Monday a 2017-2018 contract with district teachers that includes a 6 percent increase in money available for salaries.

The contract will give the district’s 986 teachers a basic salary increase of $2,310 and will also provide raises for years of service and additional education. Those salary increases will cost the district $3.15 million. The district would also increase its contribution for teachers’ fringe benefits by $20.12 per employee at a total cost of $260,621.

Lawrence Education Association President Laurie Folsom said district teachers voted 587-8 last week to approve the contract the teachers union had negotiated with the board.

Board president Shannon Kimball said the 6 percent in additional money available for salaries was the largest pay raise approved since she joined the board seven years ago.

“It’s gratifying to have a year we can give our teachers a real raise,” she said. “It has been awhile since we have had the state funding to do that.”

The contract increased the base pay of a first-year teacher to $40,040, said David Cunningham, the district’s legal counsel and human resource director. It was significant that the district’s first-year teacher base pay now exceeded $40,000, he said.

“That puts us in a very competitive position,” he said. “I think that was one thing the board was interested in accomplishing.”

Folsom and Kimball agreed the salary increase would help the district recruit and retain teachers. Too often, the district loses quality teachers to the big three Johnson County districts of Blue Valley, Olathe and Shawnee Mission, Folsom said.

“We practically serve as a farm system for the big three Johnson County districts,” she said. “This goes a long way in closing that gap.”

Board members were also pleased with the numbers David Arteberry shared with them when presenting bids received earlier in the day on a $43.5 million bond sale. The representative from the district’s bond adviser firm of George K. Baum said Hutchinson, Shockey, Erley & Co., of Chicago, was the lowest bidder, charging the district an interest rate of 2.95 percent for the 20-year bonds.

The winner was one of eight financial institutions bidding on the bonds. Arteberry noted all the bids were tightly grouped with the high bidder, Wells Fargo Bank, offering an interest rate of 3.01 percent.

All the interest rates in the bids were considerably lower than the 3.665 percent the district used this summer in its 2017-2018 budget calculations, Arteberry said. The district increased its bond and interest fund mill levy by 1.2 mills for 2017-2018 to make its first bond payment.

The bond sale approved Monday represented half of the $87 million bond issue that voters approved in a May referendum. The board plans to issue the other half of the bonds next year.

Most of the revenue from the latest bond issue is to be used on projects for the district’s secondary schools.

In other business, the board:

• Unanimously selected Ray and Associates Inc. to perform the search of a new district superintendent. Board members agreed the Cedar Rapids, Iowa, firm stood out from the other two firms that also made presentations at its Aug. 28 meeting. Board members said they liked the firm’s internal commitment to diversity and how that would relate to the search. Kimball noted that Ray and Associates included some services in its base fee of $22,000 that its two competitors only made available in their menus for additional services.

With the decision, the board authorized staff to negotiate a contract with Ray and Associates to perform the search at a cost not to exceed $30,000.

The board’s goal is to interview finalists the firm identifies in January 2018 and offer a contract to the district’s next superintendent in February 2018. The new superintendent’s first day with the district will be July 1, 2018.

• Approved a lease-purchase agreement totaling $5.05 million with KBS Constructors Inc. to develop the district’s new maintenance yard at 711 E. 23rd St. The school district acquired the former Douglas County Public Works yard last year in a swap of the district’s current maintenance yard at 146 Maine St. and a $500,000 payment.

KBS Constructors Inc. is to provide construction management services for site work, demolition of some existing structures, renovations of others and construction of a 13,500-square-foot warehouse and a 9,500-square-foot facilities and operations building.

Tony Barron, district executive director of facilities and operations, said the district had hoped to hold the cost of modifying the yard for its needs to $4.8 million. However, the swap with the county and obtaining the proper construction permits from the city took longer than expected, and costs increased during those delays, he said. There were also additional needed modifications identified during that time, he said.

The swap was still a good deal for the district because the yard’s modification would be cheaper than constructing a new facility on undeveloped property, Barron said. It would also save the district by consolidating its operations, he said.

• Received an update on district equity efforts from student services and special education executive director Kevin Harrell, assistant director of student services and equity Leah Wisdom and equity facilitator Danica Moore. The board was told the district Equity Advisory Council agreed the focus this school year would be on academic achievement, social-emotional support and policy.