Pay increases hold steady in 2016-17

by Troy Bryant

Pay increases for public school districts in Texas are expected to remain moderate in 2016‒17, according to an April 2016 poll by TASB HR Services. The statewide poll on prospective pay raises of HR Services member school districts finds that 78 percent of the 408 districts responding anticipate giving a pay raise for 2016‒17.

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Of those districts planning a salary increase, the median pay raise is 2 percent for each surveyed pay group—teachers, administrators/professionals, and clerical paraprofessional/auxiliary. That’s the same increase reported in last year’s poll.

Taking a closer look, the results vary significantly by location in Texas. In Regions 2 (Corpus Christi), 4 (Houston), and 10 (Richardson), 90 percent or more of responding districts anticipate giving a raise. In contrast, less than half of districts (40 percent) anticipate pay raises in Region 9 (Wichita Falls). In Central Texas, 84 percent of districts in Regions 13 (Austin) and 20 (San Antonio) expect to give pay raises.
 
Responses also vary by the Texas Education Agency (TEA)-defined community types. Ninety percent or more of districts in independent town, major suburban, major urban, and non-metropolitan-fast growing communities anticipate giving pay increases. Of the eight district types measured, rural communities had the lowest number of respondents (62 percent) anticipating providing a pay increase to their employees.

Furthermore, only 57 percent of districts with less than 500 students plan to provide a pay raise. Districts giving pay raises jumps to 76 percent when looking at enrollment of 500 to 999. In districts with 3,000 or more students, 94 percent are planning a pay raise.

Among respondents intending to give an increase to teachers, 34 percent expect to give a 2 percent raise. Nearly one-quarter indicated an increase of 3 percent. Twenty-seven percent of districts expect to provide an amount that is less than 2 percent.

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Prospective pay increases for teachers also varied by ESC Region. Regions 2 (3 percent), 4 (2.5 percent), 10 (2.5 percent), and 15 (2.5 percent) had the highest median increases, while Regions 5 (1.5 percent), 19 (1.5 percent), and 9 (1.8 percent) had the lowest median increases. Administrator and nonexempt pay increases in these regions generally followed similar trends.
 
The poll was conducted in April 2016 and includes survey responses from 408 Texas public school districts representing all ESC Regions and TEA enrollment groups. This is the fifth year of conducting the prospective pay increase poll, providing an early picture of anticipated pay increases statewide. 

 

FLSA Update—Three ways to prepare for the final rules

Editor's Note: HR Services' suggsted method for determining an employee's weekly salary has changed as a result of clarifications provided by the Department of Labor. To avoid confusion, we have removed the text of this article and are referring our members to the updated infographic and our webinar, Three Simple Steps to Identify Employees Impacted by the New FLSA Rule. Clarifying information will be included in the June/July issue of the HR Exchange


Teacher professional development survey results: School district policies and practices highlighted

by Troy Bryant

Conducted by HR Services in March 2016, the survey covers scheduling practices, required days, compensation, and use of instructional waivers for teacher professional development.

Among 259 responding Texas school districts, slightly more than two-thirds (69 percent or 179 districts) assign professional development planning to their curriculum and instruction department. The superintendent’s office accounts for about one-quarter of responses (24 percent or 62 responses). Human Resources is rarely responsible for professional development (3 percent or seven responses), according to the survey.

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Teacher Professional Development Days

With the change in the education code to minutes of instruction (HB 2610), questions regarding the number of days for professional development were added this year. For 2016‒17, nearly half (48 percent) of districts responding plan to use 10 or more days for professional development. In addition, most districts (68 percent) will provide more professional development days for teachers as a result of the change in law.

Scheduling Professional Development

According to the survey, professional development is most often scheduled during the summer (61 percent). Another 14 percent of respondents schedule it for both Saturdays and during the summer. Other districts schedule it during the school year, on early release days, or at other times when students are not in attendance.  
 
In addition, districts were asked about compensating teachers for attending professional development on days outside the normal contract term. Of those districts that offer compensation (48 percent), two-thirds provide comp days during the school year. Most other respondents pay a standard rate to teachers.
 
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Instructional Waivers and Early Release Days

Finally, the survey asked districts about instructional waivers and early release days for professional development. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) allows districts to request up to three waiver days for professional development in lieu of student instruction. TEA also allows districts to request up to six early release days for professional development or other locally determined need.
 
Sixty-four percent of responding districts request instructional waivers. Of these districts, nearly all (90 percent) request three waiver days. Fewer districts (60 percent) request early release days and nearly half of these districts (46 percent) request the maximum six days.
 
TASB HR Services surveyed more than 900 public school member districts in March 2016. For the summary findings, 259 districts across all TEA-defined enrollment groupings participated in the survey. While the results of responses collected by March 2016 are reported here, HR Services member districts who have yet to participate can do so by visiting DataCentral and accessing the HR Data page. Member districts can take part in all of our surveys covering HR policies and procedures in school districts. Results are available upon completion of the survey.

 

The top challenges facing HR

by Zach DiSchiano

The field of human resources has been around for more than a century, but as the workplace continues to evolve, so must the HR profession. 

According to a report from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), both the workplace and the HR profession will be shaped by tighter labor markets, economic uncertainty, and globalization. SHRM’s Special Expertise Panels identified a wide range of challenges and notable trends, including the following:

  • Stepped-up competition for talent
    • Companies are finding it more difficult to attract the top employees as a result of improved market conditions and increased need for skilled and educated workers.
  • New developments in technology
    • Flexibility and productivity are expected to increase with new tools like talent networks, crowdsourcing, and internal social networks. Supporting a virtual workforce with these tools can make employee management and team building more difficult.
  • A rising sense of insecurity
    • Data security concerns are more prominent than ever with the rapid development of technology. Data breaches are one issue, but the security of actual employees is just as vital. Political and social problems continue to mount and reports of violence in the workplace are staggering.
  • The impact of the economy
    • The global economy can’t be ignored in mapping out the future of human resources. Many countries are seeing positive economic change, while others are struggling with their budgets. This will influence hiring strategies and other HR decisions.
  • Demographic changes
    • Differences in population will have a major impact on employment and HR practices. Some of these changes include increased cultural diversity, the aging workforce, the nature of family and parental roles, and different generations working together.
  • Data-driven HR practice                                  
    • Business leaders are increasingly demanding that HR professionals use metrics and in-depth analysis to make strong decisions and convey the return on investment of important expenditures.
Some of these universal changes are beginning to materialize, and companies and districts alike must adapt to our fluid society to avoid falling behind their peers. Human Resources isn't going anywhere, but its operations may look a little different as we progress further into the 21st century. 

 

The new age of career discovery

by Zach DiSchiano

The successful matchmaking website eHarmony.com recently unveiled the beta version of its next venture, Elevated Careers. Utilizing the same predictive algorithmic technology currently employed for matching individuals, the new site matches job seekers with prospective employers and vice versa based on the skills, culture, and personality of each.

According to the site, users complete a profile and answer a questionnaire to create a Compatibility Scorecard. The questionnaire comprises users’ information about their current company as well as data eHarmony received from other employees. This allows them to provide a Compatibility Profile for the company. Once completed, the profile shows how compatible users are with the job and the company based on skills, experience, values, company culture, and personality.

With the settling in of millennials as the predominant workplace age demographic and the rise of Generation Z (also known as globals), the mobile optimization, customizability, and efficiency of the concept makes sense in the evolution of the online career resource. What might make it truly revolutionary is if the website cultivates the same high compatibility rates achieved by its forerunner, eHarmony.com, which claims responsibility for 4 percent of daily marriages in the United States.

While millennials have encompassed a great deal of the space dedicated to how we sell, communicate, manage, and hire people over the last decade, globals are quickly taking their place in our collective consciousness. Generation Z, or those not quite 20, have known nothing but smartphones for the vast majority of their lives and are much like millennials in their preference for quick access to information, short forms, and not waiting in line.

With their many similarities, new job search concepts like Elevated by eHarmony are sure to pique the interest of globals. Even more importantly for HR, this changing landscape in recruiting, mixed with the fact that these groups will be the target audience for at least the next decade, signals the time to adapt.

If new concepts like Elevated by eHarmony are indeed the future, HR may find itself needing to do more than just understand the expectations and challenges of these growing demographics to remain competitive. Moving forward, it may need to tackle the problem of something completely new like how to create and maximize the district’s compatibility rating.

As for recruiting, there are some differences worth pointing out between millennials and Gen Z. Interestingly, Generation Z, unlike millennials, prefers imagery and video over text and classify things like Facebook, instant messaging, and email as “distracting.” For them, the top three communication channels are Vine, Twitter, and Instagram, so if you're an HR department already struggling to keep up with your LinkedIn and Facebook accounts, this could be unsettling information. Is your online application process clunky and/or not optimized for mobile viewing? If so, you could be losing ground.

Image-rich branding and marketing messages appear to be essential keys to success. While tweeting your next job opening might seem superfluous today, building an image-based online marketing plan now and gaining followers over time can only keep you ahead of the game in the long term.

Not all technology is trending toward obsolescence. Old friends like email and telephone calls are definitely still an important part of the current work culture and hiring process. For Generation Z and younger millennials, just be prepared for a period of post-hire acclimation as they work to learn their more subtle nuances.

 

HR Extras

T-TESS update

Long-anticipated new rules governing teacher appraisal in Texas were adopted in April and will become effective on July 1, 2016. The new rules replace the current system—the Professional Development Appraisal System (PDAS) – with the new state-recommended appraisal system—the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS). The option allowing districts to adopt a locally developed alternative system remains. The adopted rules provide flexibility to districts in some areas, such as frequency of evaluations and how appraisal scores will be determined. 

Districts will need to update board policy to reflect their local decisions about which appraisal system the district will use. TASB Policy Service distributed a survey in April to all policy contacts to help districts revise their board policy language. Policy Service will create policy drafts for districts after districts complete the survey. In addition, Policy Service has sample administrative regulations available for districts to document the administrative-level decisions regarding the district’s appraisal process. 


Oil devaluation taking its toll on districts

School districts in oil towns are feeling the effects of the ongoing devaluation, facing steep budget shortfalls among other issues as the crisis wears on.

Oil plays a pivotal role in district finances—booms can boost revenues significantly, while devaluations can severely damage school budgets. Cuero ISD experienced a budget increase from $6 million in 2009 to $22 million in 2012 during the Eagle Ford shale boom. Now, the board is projecting a significant drop in revenues to $16 million, forcing the district to cut personnel and services it added during the previous five years.

The Eagle Ford shale oil boom allowed small towns like Cuero the chance to begin projects it normally wouldn’t have been able to even consider. The town was able to pass a $76 million bond measure for the construction of the Performing Arts Center as well as two new elementary schools. Interim superintendent Dr. Ben Colwell said the district wouldn’t have been able to pass even a $10 million bond before the boom.

In addition to the decrease in revenues, school districts in towns like Cuero, Karnes City, and Yorktown are now facing a second challenge because they are considered Chapter 41, or “property rich.” The Texas Education Agency (TEA) is now requiring them to repay state dollars they were previously given. Karnes City ISD is facing a $48 million recapture, while Cuero owes the state $5.3 million.

While the boom was undeniably helpful for these small town districts, inaccurate estimations of the length of the boom will have a painful impact in the near future. Fortunately, the buildings and facilities the boom allowed are here to stay, and the devaluation will certainly not last forever.

100Kin10 continues to gain steam in STEM prep

Launched in response to a State of the Union address in 2011, 100Kin10 is climbing closer toward its goal of training 100,000 teachers in STEM subjects by the year 2021.

Heading into the program’s fifth year, 100Kin10 has trained more than 28,000 STEM educators, according to its website. The coalition recently announced the addition of 49 new partners, giving the group a total of 280 academic institutions, businesses, non-profits, and other foundations to help achieve its goal. Texas A&M is among the newest members, and the university pledged to increase the supply of STEM teachers by 950 before the 2021 target deadline. The university specified that 165 secondary math and science teachers will be trained to serve the needs of Texas K-12 students.

Texas A&M is proposing that three of its colleges work together on initiatives including the launch of a teacher preparation program and the distribution of hands-on STEM tools for early childhood and middle grade teachers to intertwine engineering concepts with math and science lessons.

Only 2 percent of high school graduates in Texas take a computer science course in high school, a statistic that prompts the University of Texas at Austin’s Center for STEM Education to key in on the expansion of computer science through Texas schools. UT was granted a 100Kin10 Fellowship to create an online course that will help teachers become certified in computer science and increase the quality of classroom instruction. The university is hoping to have at least 200 additional teachers certified by January of 2017.


Inside HR Services

Model Employee Handbook posted

The 2016 update to the Model Employee Handbook (MEH) was posted on April 25. The MEH is available to members through myTASB. There were only a few changes this year, which will make the local updating process simple.
 
The model is provided as a resource to help districts develop or maintain local employee handbooks. The text should be carefully edited and revised to create an employee handbook that accurately reflects local policy and practices, as well as the district climate.
 
We provide districts with the complete MEH in PDF form, a version that incudes commentary to help users research district policies and practices; and the editable MS Word® version. A detailed guide to changes for 2016 is also provided, along with the page numbers of changes in the editable version.

Upcoming training for leave administrators

In June on consecutive days, we are presenting our two full-day workshop for district staff responsible for administering leave at TASB’s main Austin office. Managing Leaves and Absences, which provides a detailed look at all leave benefits, will be presented on Tuesday, June 7. Get a Grip on the Family and Medical Leave Act will be presented on the following day, Wednesday June 8.
 
Get a Grip on the Family and Medical Leave uses actual situations in exercises and case studies to help participants learn how to apply FMLA regulations, identify potential problem areas, and develop procedures for administering family and medical leave. For a detailed description of both workshops or to register, please visit our training page.

Look for our 2016‒17 School District CTE Teaching Permits poll

We’re gathering data on Texas Education Code 21.055 allowing districts to issue a teaching permit to hire noncore career and technical education (CTE) teachers. Participate in the short poll and you’ll receive the results following the conclusion of the survey. An e-mail invitation to the online survey will be sent to HR Services contacts on May 10. Look for the survey highlights in the June/July issue of HR Exchange

Watch for June/July issue of HR Exchange

We will publish a combined June/July issue of HR Exchange in mid- to late June. We will resume our normal monthly publishing schedule in August. We always welcome your story suggestions, especially on innovative district practices. Send us your ideas via e-mail.


Q&A: Releasing personnel information

Q: Can we release personnel information to someone acting on behalf of an employee?
 
A: Yes. Personnel files are generally considered confidential under the Public Information Act (PIA). However, there is an exception that provides that the information in a personnel file must be made available to that employee or the employee’s designated representative (Tex. Gov’t Code §552.102). As a result, a request from an employee’s designated representative should be treated the same as if it was made by the employee. Since the statute doesn’t specify a legal guardian or formal power of attorney requirement, a simple designation signed by the employee should suffice.
 
Family and medical leave
In the case of absences involving family and medical leave (FML), the federal regulations state that an employer may accept notification of an employee’s serious health condition from a family member or other spokesperson if the employee is unable to speak for his or herself. In these instances, if there is a need to obtain health information, a simple authorization note from the employee would also be sufficient, provided the employee can sign one. If the employee is incapacitated and unable to communicate with the district, the district can interact with the family member or spokesperson to request and obtain medical certification and other updates on the employee’s condition.
 
Death of an employee
Other procedures apply when an employee passes away. If an executor or administrator presents letters of appointment to the district, personal items and unpaid wages may be released to the executor or administrator. If there is no executor or administrator and the employee has a surviving spouse, the employee’s pay and any items that are community property may be released to the spouse providing the spouse has provided a notarized affidavit of authority.
 
If the district does not receive appropriate paperwork from a surviving spouse, executor, or administrator, procedures for dealing with abandoned wages must be followed. Detailed information on handling records and pay for a deceased employee can be found in the TASB School Law eSource paper, “Frequently Asked Questions When an Employee Passes Away.” FAQ.