Rural Utah school district offers $80,000 teaching salaries

Posted at 7:37 AM, Apr 26, 2017
and last updated 2017-04-26 07:38:33-04

A school district in southeastern Utah is in the middle of a test program to see if offering salaries of up to $80,000 can persuade teachers to stay at an elementary school near the Utah-Colorado border.

Teacher turnover is a major problem at Montezuma Creek Elementary School due to unusual working conditions, the Deseret News reported Sunday.

The school, near Four Corners, is remote and in an area that struggles with extreme poverty, high rates of absenteeism, homelessness, substance abuse and frequent turnover of teachers.

The test program started three years ago to pay significantly higher salaries to effective veteran educators selected as lead teachers at the school.

A major problem is 7 percent of the area's elementary school teachers have been in the classroom for at least 14 years, while farther north in the county, about half of the district's teachers are 14-year veterans.

"It didn't take a lot of real deep analysis to realize we had a retention problem and even to some degree attracting the right talent," said Ron Nielson, elementary supervisor for the San Juan School District.

Since the pilot started three years ago, all but one lead teacher has remained at the school. Turnover has also been reduced, but more importantly, student achievement has improved.

"It goes way beyond just your salary," Nielson said. "If you do that for three years, it can make a substantial difference in your retirement. That's what we're hoping."

The program was launched with a grant, and administrators now seek to expand the effort to other schools.

"We're hoping to attract a deep and competitive pool," Nielson said. "In the elementary, we're looking to place at least five. We already have four at Montezuma Creek, so that puts us at nine."


Information from: Deseret News