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BOBBY ARDOIN Editor/Consulting Writer

St. Landry Parish School District officials have agreed to develop a pay increase structure for several groups of employees who are now paid more in either the private sector or other school systems.

That issue, based on findings in a 2022 report issued by an educational consulting firm, was discussed at length Monday night by Finance Committee members who asked Superintendent Milton Batiste III and Finance Director Shaun Grantham to determine whether the District has sufficient revenues to help increase starting salaries for some workers who perform duties primarily outside the classroom.

Grantham however told committee members that currently she is skeptical about the financial ability of the District to provide any dramatic pay increases.

“We can start the process, but we will run out of money before we get anywhere where we need to be,” Graham said.

Whose Salaries Are Lowest?

According to an overall review of District salaries conducted by Lean Frog, a company which provides strategic planning, compensation studies and organizational reviews for School Board Districts, St. Landry is behind by as much as 20 percent for paying the beginning salaries for some benchmark positions, such as licensed maintenance workers and computer technicians.

The District, the study also notes, is also 10 percent lower than either other districts or private businesses for providing starting pay for accountants, school principals, maintenance helpers and social workers.

Other workers such as school bookkeepers, elementary supervisors, special education directors, payroll employees, assistant principals, computer technicians, instructional specialists, custodians, assistant janitors, receptionists, warehouse clerks and directors secretaries are paid about fiver percent less than they are in other Districts or by private firms, the employment study indicates.

Sentiments Of The Committee

Batiste said the District is prepared to move forward with performing an overall review of the findings included in the Lean Frog study and then make recommendations.

“We are going to look at the data and come up with a plan and look at whatever is feasible,” said Batiste.

Committee Chairman Raymond Cassimere added that developing a plan will not be a simple task.

“We know that this will be a massive undertaking and it will take some time. We now have a general idea about where we need to be. We just have to decide how we are going to get there,” Cassimere said.

Board member Robert Gautreaux noted that in other school districts, the entry level salaries for similar categories of school workers are also not equivalent to what workers can earn in private industry.

Gautreaux also pointed out that he appreciates the employees who have decided to remain in St. Landry, regardless of any pay discrepancies. 

“There are a number of employees who are choosing to stay (in St. Landry) for other reasons (than higher salaries), so we have to find a way to make the (pay) gap less for them. We are happy that they are deciding to stay with us and we need to take care of them,” said Gautreaux.