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Clark County teachers unhappy with new professional growth system

Barry Reid meticulously documented the reasons he deserved a raise.

Like other teachers trying to advance on the salary table, he kept a binder with all his paperwork to document that he had taken more than the 225 “contact units” needed to get a pay bump.

But after submitting his documents to the Clark County School District and calling to make sure everything was set, he said, he was told he had only 222.

Reid is one of many teachers who are unhappy with the professional growth system, a way to earn raises that the district and teachers’ union rolled out in 2016.

The system allows teachers to perform a number of approved activities, like mentoring or tutoring, and document them in a professional growth plan to accrue contact units. The system is intended to expand the pathway to salary advancement beyond just going back to school to earn a higher degree.

But amid confusion and frustration, some teachers prefer the older, simpler method.

“It was cut and dried,” Reid said. “Get a master’s; get a raise.”

With a switch to any new pay system, there are likely to be growing pains, but some hurt more for certain educators than others.

Take Lori Ritter, for example. She was working toward earning 32 credits on top of her master’s degree so she could fall in the “master’s +32” category of the old pay scale. With her 15 years in the district, that would’ve put her salary at $67,689.

But the switch to the new system came when she was 2.5 credits away from completion. The result: Her 32 credits amounted to only 128 contact units, well short of what she needs to earn the raise.

She tried to fight, but everyone told her to just earn more contact units. She’s adamant that she should not have to do so.

“Why would I take CUs when you’re not giving me what I already earned?” she said, noting that even if she did, she would receive a lower salary than the one she had been working toward.

The growth system is one of several topics that divide teachers, who themselves are sometimes split between the Clark County Education Association union and the new National Educators Association of Southern-Nevada.

Some educators think the system works fine.

Matthew Kranz completed a number of activities to earn his raise. He got his first pay increase approved in under a year, he said. Now, he’s invited by CCEA to train other teachers on the system.

“I want other people to be successful in it so that negative connotation of the system kind of goes away,” he said.

Kranz said he understands the frustration felt by teachers who worked for a master’s degree, for example, and did not get the raise under the new system. But he also notes that a step forward under the new system is worth more — at over $5,000 — than under the old one.

The CCEA did not respond to a request for comment, but the union did tell educators Friday that it had filed a class-action grievance on behalf of teachers who were denied their advancement this year.

In a statement, the district said there was a transition period between the old and new salary systems.

“Teachers who completed advanced degrees under the previous salary system were given their pay increases according to the terms agreed to by the Clark County School District and the Clark County Education Association,” the statement reads. “Contact units are reviewed and approved in accordance with the agreement between the Clark County Education Association and the Clark County School District.”

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