R-2 board discusses teacher retention strategies, approves $125 stipend for new educators

By Roxie Murphy, Assistant Editor
Posted 4/17/24

Teacher retention and retainment ideas were circulated during a discussion at the Monday night Gasconade County R-2 board of education meeting, though no votes were taken. The board also passed an …

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R-2 board discusses teacher retention strategies, approves $125 stipend for new educators


Teacher retention and retainment ideas were circulated during a discussion at the Monday night Gasconade County R-2 board of education meeting, though no votes were taken. The board also passed an agenda item to pay new district educators a $125 stipend for teacher orientation, beginning during the 2024-25 school year.

Superintendent Dr. Jeri Kay Hardy shared with the board on April 15 that teacher and staff retention is about more than just pay.

“So we are looking at moving ahead,” Hardy said. “In a time where we want to retain all the teachers, as you know there is a national crisis in the retention of teachers and teachers who are completely leaving the field of education, we know that we will look at salary schedules in the next couple of months. But we were looking at incentives.”

The first incentive she suggested was ensuring teachers with preschool-aged children were given first priority in preschool programs within the district.

“We could offer our staff members, if you are a staff member and you have a preschool student, your child has a spot in our preschool,” Hardy said. “Also, what are your thoughts on — we forgive students, what if we forgive teacher snow days? Right now, you forgive four, but other districts around forgive all of them.”

These were some of the ideas that Hardy thought teachers would appreciate.

Board Director Russ Farrell asked what other districts forgave teacher snow days.

“It’s more common to forgive them all for teachers than to make them make them up,” said Kari Nolting who was sworn in during the board reorganization meeting earlier in the evening.

Nolting was a former Gasconade County R-2 educator before she moved to the Crawford County R-2 School District in Cuba and served as an administrator.

“That would be another benefit that would add,” Hardy said. “At the last forum that I went to, some school districts in Missouri and Kansas have implemented — if you get 10 days a year, they are saying if you don’t use all of those, you can carry up to so many. Like, we will pay you for six days, but you still get to carry those (six days) over to the next year at a sub-teacher rate. So, instead of having to pay a sub teacher at the end of the year, we will pay you for so many days. If you have five days left, we will pay you for those five and then you get to bank those five over to next year. That way they’re not out any more money if they would have come to school than if they missed. Then maybe that is an incentive at the end of the year. So we pay them for five days if they have five days left. Instead of burning through them, as an incentive, we will pay them for five days if they have five days left. Then they can carry those days over to the next year.”

Director Jean Baker asked if the payout would be on their June paycheck and Hardy said yes.

“That is three ideas we come up with for recruitment and retention,” she said.

“Am I missing something or does it sound like we are paying them twice?” Farrell asked.

Hardy said they would be paying the teacher twice, but not the same price twice. They would be potentially saving a certain amount too, depending on how much the teacher incentive is.

“You’re paying them to go ahead and work and then giving the day back the next year,” Farrell said.

Hardy said yes and then the day carries over to the next school year.

“What do we save by doing that?” Farrell asked.

She said what it would cost to bring a sub in, but the teacher would still be in the classroom, which benefits the students.

“I understand it’s better, but I’m talking money-wise,” Farrell said. “Does anybody else do that?”

Hardy said there were a lot of schools at the Kansas-Missouri Forum that did it and Nolting said her previous district employer did too.

Assistant Superintendent Staci Johnson said her previous employer paid a $50 incentive to keep teachers in the classroom and allow them to carry over their days. But it was only allowed for a certain number of days.

“You can say there is a max that you can roll over. Maybe they have 10 days and they only use five and you pay them for the five they didn’t use,” Hardy said. 

Board President Glenn Ely said the conversation behind staffing retention should be a focus.

“It’s right behind resourcing our students,” he said. “We know supporting our teachers is going to create a great classroom experience and create the best opportunity. We know that in a work place, pay is important, but it is more than that. There is more than one approach.”

Ely said if they asked students why the district loses teachers, there is always some version of behaviors, respect, and chaos within the classroom.

“How do we create (an environment) where that teacher is able to focus more, or that specialist,” he said. “Those are important elements to create the opportunities for that teacher to instruct and that student to learn.”

He said the conversation is just as important as creating a safe space for students to learn.

“I’d really like for this to continue and gravitate on what that discussion looks like,” Ely said.

Nolting suggested a stipend or acknowledgment for teachers who take graduate courses.

“An acknowledgment or payback,” Baker suggested.

“Some sort of reimbursement for teachers who are in graduate programs,” Nolting added. “I don’t know that it has to be an arm and a leg, but some sort of recognition that we appreciate you are putting in that time and effort to further what you need to be a high-quality educator.”

She suggested even paying for a teacher’s books

“It goes along with we want our kids to be life-long learners, our teachers need to be life-long learners as well and that is why professional development is such a big part as well,” Ely said.

Hardy asked the board to email her if they had more ideas. The incentives come out of the teacher funds.

Keith Glaser, who was also sworn in during the earlier meeting, asked for studies or information about how the district compares to surrounding schools, including turnover.

“Basically, it’s the data review of ours and the components of the surrounding districts,” Ely said.

Ely said the information is available on the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s website.

“This focus is not just on the board or on our kids, but how we are moving those supports in that direction as a board,” he said. “It’s not ‘keep up with the Joneses but having a sense of what’s going in St. James, or Belle, or Linn or all the surrounding schools. Is it a four-day school here or a five-day school here? Why does that work or why doesn’t work? School is the safest haven for a number of kiddos and sometimes its conversations that are not just about learning, but ‘I got ‘em to school safe. They’re not starving to death. I got them clothes.’ There’s a lot of other elements that we need to have in place to have that opportunity to learn and explore. There is more to live than just this.”

Ely said the district is trying to let students compete not just in Gasconade County, but in Missouri, the United States and the world. Whatever their choices, the district needs to make sure they do their part to create that opportunity  — a conversation that also includes teachers.

No action was taken regarding teacher incentives as it was a discussion item only.

Since the $125 teacher orientation stipend was on the agenda, the board approved the measure with a 7-0 vote

Hardy explained that currently new teachers are not paid to attend the teacher orientation days, which are required.

“This will pay them $125 for the day instead of making them come without pay,” Hardy said.