- When I arrived in 2008, we had no retirement plan in place of any kind, all teachers made somewhere around $30,000, and we paid health benefits for the individual. We had trouble attracting certified staff to the school.
- As enrollment grew from 2008-2012, we were able to improve salary. We had attracted some solid teachers by posting our positions to a national website and recruiting out-of-state for people interested in living in Moab for the lifestyle and outdoor culture. And they have stayed with us because of the culture of our school.
- Over the past two years, we moved from 70 students to 127 enrolled this fall. This has essentially doubled our funding from the state (which is based on student counts on October 1).
- This past school year (2012-2013), we paid each teacher $34,000 plus $3,000 bonuses each. We provided health benefits for the individual, and we finally put into place a 401(k) plan.
- The current 401(k) plan that we put into place last fall matches up to 4% of an employee's contributed salary at a $1 to $1 ratio. So, if I put in 4% of my salary, MCS matches what I contribute at $1 for $1. It's not spectacular, but it is a start. Our plan going into the fall and future years is to improve this 401(k) plan by increasing the percentage match (we can go as high as 6%) and to increase the match ratio (for example, we might match $1.50 for every $1 the employee puts into the plan). As we improve this 401(k), it should become competitive with many other charter schools.
- Traditional districts mainly participate in their state-operated retirement plans. These basically say, put in 30 years with us, and we will base your retirement on the 3-5 highest years of pay, your contribution rates, the number of years in our system, and the age at which you retire. You are then provided an annual income each year for the remainder of your life. Most state employees enjoy such plans. Most charters do not participate in the Utah Retirement System like districts. The idea is, charters are different, its very costly to be in the URS, and many people like the 401(k) model because the employee is in control of their investments if they want to be. So, as MCS improves the 401(k) plan here, we should become competitive within the charter world. Teachers who want to be in state retirement systems typically don't work in the charter system. It's a decision every teacher has to make if they are considering working in the charter world.
- Salaries for the Fall 2013: We have increased salaries for teachers at MCS from $34,000 to $38,000 going into this fall, and we plan to continue to build on this. This makes us very competitive within the state of Utah and with many other states. We will also make some improvements to the 401(k) and continue paying the full individual health benefits. In addition, this past year, we added paying for each employee's family Pool and Gym pass at the Moab Aquatic and Recreation Center.
- Looking at the local Grand County School District salary scale (http://www.grand.k12.ut.us/
districtoffice/html/ salaryschteachers.html), a teacher making $38,000 at MCS is equivalent to a teacher at GCSD who has a Bachelors and 7 years experience, a teacher with a Bachelors plus 30 credit hours and 6 years experience, a teacher with a Masters and 4 years of experience, or a teacher with a PhD and 3 years of experience. Currently, we don't structure our salary schedule like a traditional school with "steps and lanes" for educational levels and years of experience. This is a direction we might head in the future.
- Future improvements: I would like us to move in the direction of increasing salaries for teachers, providing health benefits to the entire family of teachers, and improving the 401(k) plan. As our enrollment grows, we will be able to do many of these things and to continue improving compensation for our teachers. As we stand going into the fall, MCS has a strong position within the charter world - we have a sound compensation system in place for the first time, and we have plans and the means to continue improving this system.
- Working in a charter school, especially one as small as MCS, requires a certain type of adventurous spirit. With my doctorate and experience and skills, I might easily be in a district or university setting making much more money with better benefits and a stronger retirement. However, I love MCS and the adventure of being here. I think the teachers here at MCS would tell you the same: "Yes, better pay would be great, but I'm here because I love this school."
- Over the past 3 years, we haven't lost a single teacher, and as we look to replace two teachers this fall who are moving to new schools, we have several excellent candidates among whom we will have to choose. They really, really want to come to our school after reading about it online. They really, really want to come to Moab because they love our outdoors lifestyle. I am excited about where we have come as a school, and I am excited for the new teachers coming to join us this summer.
It is my understanding that after 3 years of not losing any teachers, we are losing one teacher who wants to be in the Utah Retirement System and another who wants to live closer to family. As we move forward, I expect us to have similar such staff retention. We might go several years with no changes, and then we might have a year with a couple of teachers moving on. It's the life of a school. What you will see, though, is more and more staff staying with us for even longer stretches because of three things: (1) They love the culture of the school with so many parents involved, the freedom to be innovative and creative at MCS, and the great students and staff; (2) The improving compensation; (3) The wonderful culture in Moab that provides such excellent weather and outdoors opportunities.