A group of 23 Webster Parish teachers who did not receive additional money last year in the form of one-time supplemental pay will receive the same amount this year as their classroom counterparts after a unanimous vote by the parish school board Monday.

In addition to the educators, board members also voted to include all school system employees in a one-time supplement. Total staff receiving the supplement is 388 teachers and 402 system employees.

Board members agreed to give parish librarian/teachers and counselors the same $864 stipend that classroom teachers received last year, and to pay all other employees $700. Finance Director Crevonne Odom said checks should be ready for distribution by either October 24 or 31.

Odom said the supplemental pay for teachers and other employees was possible this year because the district’s belt-tightening over the past years is beginning to bear fruit.

“We closed out 2013-14 without having to dip into our reserves for the first time in four years,” she said. “Everything we have done, consolidation, cutting the budget, not giving raises has finally turned us around.”

Odom said there had been some hard, unpopular decisions made during the past few years, “…but as finance director I did what we had to do to ensure the entire system survived and got back on the right footing.”

Prior to the announcement of the stipend for employees who had previously not been included, librarian teacher Debbie Baskin and counselor Melissa Griffith asked board members to remember that librarians and counselors are certified teachers.

“We are degreed teachers and more than half of us have a Masters Plus 30,” Baskin said. “Why does this board not recognize us as teachers in the classrooms? It all boils down to codes (classification). Every librarian in this parish is a certified teacher.”

Griffith said she had been teaching in the parish for 20 years and now serves as counselor at Central and Harper elementary schools.

“I feel we should have been compensated as teachers who directly teach students in Webster Parish,” Griffith said. “All I ask is that we be treated like teachers.”

Patricia Durham, a retired parish schoolteacher, asked the school board members to reconsider the buyout portion of the contract between the board and retired teachers.

“At the time we were very unaware we would never be allowed to substitute teach in Webster Parish schools again,” Durham said. “I think it is a disservice to our students because we are dedicated, qualified, certified teachers.”

Durham said she was asking the board to reverse or rescind that part of the contract that prohibits a retired teacher who took a buyout from substituting.

Odom said retirees who took the buyout signed a contract stating they could not come back to work in Webster Parish, but could work in other parishes. She added that her recommendation to the board would be that if that portion of the contract was rescinded the individuals who took the buyout pay back the money.

Board members agreed to have the personnel committee look into the matter.

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