For the last several months, Daily Triplicate readers have read news stories, letters, and an opinion piece stating teachers are undervalued and deserve a raise. We know our community values our teachers, and we feel the community deserves the facts from the district's point of view.

andquot;Whatever It Takesandquot; is a phrase introduced at the beginning of the school year to help us focus on raising academic achievement for all our district's children. Within weeks, the Del Norte Teachers Association appropriated that phrase to ask the School Board to raise teacher salaries to show respect where it was due.

Without a doubt, our School Board wants to give teachers a raise and is committed to giving one. We have an excellent staff that we value and respect, and we do believe that they deserve a raise.

Here's how the School Board has shown respect. Last year, the board came to an agreement with the teachers association to increase salaries by 6 percent plus a 1 percent one-time bonus. The board said, andquot;We can afford 3 percent in 2005-06, and we will commit the first 3 percent of next year's cost of living adjustment to salaries.andquot; This guaranteed a 6 percent raise over two years. Furthermore, the Board promised, andquot;We will give more if the 2006-07 cost of living adjustment exceeds 3.5 percent.andquot;

This year the cost of living adjustment and other Increased Revenue Limit funding is 7.36 percent. The board has made good on its word. On top of the 3 percent already promised (and given) for 2006/07 and the 1.5 percent increase teachers receive for more education and advancing years of service, the board is offering an additional 2.5 percent on the salary schedule, a total of 7 percent in on-going increases.

Inaccurate complaint

On top of that, since many funds arrived this year from the state as one-time allocations with no promise of the same funds again next year, the board offered an additional 1.5 percent one-time bonus. This is above this year's cost of living adjustment, but the board is very grateful for the work of the staff and ready and willing to indeed do andquot;whatever it takesandquot; to keep them motivated and compensated.

Above is a chart showing what teachers would be paid on this new salary scale as well as the total cost per teacher for a 186 day contract.

On top of these salaries, the district pays an additional $9,000-plus per staff member for medical, dental, vision and life insurance.

When the teachers' union complains that it is has not received a cost of living adjustment during the past several years, that is inaccurate. Teacher salaries have not always gone up, but their total compensation has risen. Total compensation includes retirement, health, dental, vision and life insurance. The combined cost to the district for salaries and benefits has increased by 19.65 percent during the last 5 years. This is more than the 16.93 percent received by the district for the actual funded cost of living adjustment in the last five years and even more than the increase of 9.22 percent in the annual Consumer Price Index for the Bay Area. The total compensation increases were 2.7 percent more than the cost of living adjustment increase received by the district and 10.43 percent more than the Consumer Price Index increase This difference is even more dramatic when looking back over the last 18 years.

The community has been asked to speak up on behalf of teachers, asking the board to give them the raise they deserve to show them the respect they have earned. At present, the community is being asked to pressure the board to commit to a level of on-going compensation the district cannot maintain over even the three years just ahead.

Delicate balance

Our goal is to find the delicate balance between fair and equitable total compensation (salary plus benefits) and future district well-being. When it comes to andquot;whatever it takes,andquot; this board is committed to doing whatever it takes to provide students the best education possible, to provide bargaining units fair and equitable compensation and to keep this district solvent.

Reach Jan Moorehouse, superintendent of Del Norte County Unified Schools.