Top 10 things HR should share with their board of trustees

by Amy Campbell

District HR staff regularly interact with their school board members, but often the interactions may only be closed session discussions about employee performance issues. HR is responsible for a wide range of topics their board members should know about—far more than just employee discipline.

While there certainly are more than just 10, we’ve identified the top 10 things HR should share with their board members.

  1. Market comparison information: HR should communicate at least annually with their board how the district compares to its peer districts in terms of compensation, including salaries and benefits. Board members also should be informed about the impact of the annual salary increase on market competitiveness—did the increase the district granted improve or at least maintain its position in the market? HR can also use market comparison data to confirm identified issues with recruitment or retention and provide support for corrective measures (e.g., raising bus driver pay to better align with market value to help recruit and keep drivers).
  2. Updates on HR initiatives: HR inevitably has at least a few projects on its plate at any given moment. From T-TESS implementation to job fairs to changing its HRIS, board members benefit from hearing updates on milestones for high-profile HR projects with district-wide impact. Don’t forget to include ways that HR is innovating in these updates, even if that doesn’t involve implementation of a whole new product or system (e.g., streamlining the onboarding process).
  3. Required reporting: HR staff report district data to a variety of sources each year, and board members will benefit from seeing summary data, as well. Presentation of detailed data is not necessary, but district-wide summary data, such as the number of class-size waivers or teacher certification status across the district, would be helpful information for board members to know.
  4. Leave policies: District leave policies can have a significant impact on employee absenteeism and substitute costs.  Board members should know what the district’s leave policies are, and HR staff also can help board members identify where improvements can be made to leave policies to help streamline processes and make it easier for HR to manage employee absences.
  5. Staffing trends: HR should share staffing trends with board members at least once a year, including things like:
    • The number of employees in each general category (e.g., number of teachers, administrators, instructional aides),
    • How much of the district’s budget is dedicated to personnel,
    • What percentage of the budget is allotted for each category of personnel, and
    • Student growth rate compared to staff growth rate.
  6. Other helpful data: There is a wide variety of HR-related data that board members should be made aware of. Some suggestions include:
    • Turnover rate and change over time,
    • Details about where turnover is occurring (e.g., grade level, subject area, department, experience level, campus),
    • Substitute fill rate,
    • Number of teacher vacancies at the start of school, and
    • Employee climate survey results.
In addition to proactively sharing regular updates in the six areas listed above, HR should be prepared to answer HR questions from board members. Here are some of the most common questions asked by board members and suggested responses from HR staff.

7. Why don’t we pay our best employees more? This is one of the most frequently asked questions from board members—and it’s a valid one. Why don’t we? First, districts must have a market-competitive base pay structure in place. Differentiating pay for performance won’t matter if the base pay structure won’t allow a district to recruit and retain high-performing employees. Second, districts need to be able to define what performance they value and communicate that to employees. And, finally, districts need a clear and defensible way to accurately measure employee performance. Until recently with the implementation of T-TESS, most districts haven’t had a good method for evaluating teachers against desired performance standards. A district needs to have all three of these systems in place before it can venture into pay-for-performance territory. There are districts in the state that have gotten to that point, so it certainly can be done. Just be sure that all three systems are in place and widely accepted before heading into the world of performance pay.
8. Can my relative be employed by the district? The short answer is “it depends.” If your district is in a county with fewer than 35,000 people, then the answer may be yes. If your district is in a more populated county, then it depends on the position and the timing of the hire. TASB Legal Services has developed a detailed guide to Conflicts of Interest and Nepotism available here that provides additional details about when and how the rules apply.
9. Can we give employees a bonus during the holidays? Again, the short answer is “it depends.” Districts can grant a one-time payment during the holidays if the board has already approved the payment as part of the compensation plan and budget adopted before the school year started. Before making the decision to grant a one-time payment to employees, there are things a board should consider. A document in the HR Library provides additional details that boards should take into account when making that decision.
10. How should I respond to employee complaints about their supervisor? Because of an existing relationship, employees will sometimes go directly to a board member to complain about their supervisor. Before this happens in your district, consider providing guidance to your board about proper protocol. First, HR should share district processes for complaints with the board and how to respond if they are approached with such a complaint. And, second, sharing this information allows HR to build a partnership with the board so employees will see that district administration and board members are on the same page with these matters.

A board that is knowledgeable about HR information and procedures can serve as an ally. HR staff should focus on maintaining open lines of communication with board members and providing information throughout the year—not just when an HR issue happens. 


Superintendent pay increases inch up for 2016–17

by Troy Bryant

According to preliminary results of the TASB/TASA Superintendent Salary Survey, the average pay increase in 2016‒17 for continuing superintendents was 3.2 percent. Up from the 2.9 percent average increase in 2015‒16, pay raises have lingered at 3 percent after rising from 2011 levels, when state lawmakers cut public school funding by $5.4 billion. Pay increases hit a 10-year low (1.6 percent) that year. Down slightly from last year, some 67 percent of Texas districts provided a base salary increase to their continuing superintendent.


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Examining superintendent pay increases in relation to the Texas Education Agency (TEA)-defined district community types in Texas, superintendents in non-metropolitan fast-growing districts experienced the highest average increase (4.2 percent). Superintendents in rural districts, which comprise about 40 percent of survey respondents, received a 2.9 percent average pay raise (up from 2.5 percent last year). In addition, major urban districts gave their superintendents a 2.9 pay increase.

Salaries by district size, community type

The average superintendent salary in Texas for 2016‒17 is $142,154. There has been a steady increase in base salaries, rising 2.9 percent in 2015‒16 and 1.9 percent for 2016‒17.


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Half of reported superintendent salaries in Texas are less than $123,015 (median). In districts with fewer than 500 students, the average superintendent salary is $94,920, up from $92,479 last year (a 2.6 percent increase). These districts account for 26 percent of survey participants. In the largest Texas districts—those with more than 50,000 students—average base pay is $308,184, up from $302,563 (a 1.9 percent increase).     
 
Analyzing superintendent salaries by community type, average base pay in rural districts is $99,164, up from $96,231 last year. TEA classifies some 450 of the more than 1,000 public school districts in Texas as rural. Superintendent salaries average $305,909 in major urban districts.

Bonuses decrease

Performance and retention bonuses for Texas superintendents dropped to an average of $9,722 for 2016‒17. The percent of respondents receiving bonuses also dipped slightly: 5.1 percent of respondents in 2016‒17 compared to 6 percent in 2015‒16. According to the survey, job performance and retention are equally the most common reasons for the incentive or bonus.

Superintendent experience

Fourteen percent of Texas districts hired a new superintendent this year, up from last year. Superintendents in Texas have held the position in their current district for an average of four years and typically have seven total years of experience as a superintendent in any district.

Seven hundred and fifty Texas school districts participated in this year’s survey, representing 73 percent of districts statewide. Forty-six percent of participants are small districts—those with fewer than 1,000 students enrolled. Salaries in districts reporting an interim or part-time superintendent were not included in the analysis. Survey data is effective as of July 2016.

TASB HR Services members can now access 2016‒17 Superintendent Salary Survey data in DataCentral. The 2016‒17 Superintendent Compensation in Texas Public Schools report will be available to HR Services members in myTASB on November 21. Nonmembers will be able to purchase it in the TASB Store.

 

Managing leave during workers' comp absences

by April Mabry

One common characteristic of districts that effectively manage employee absences is that they have systems in place to ensure workers’ compensation and leave benefits are coordinated. The first step in establishing these systems is to ensure good communication exists between staff responsible for administering workers’ comp, leave programs, and payroll.

Sharing of information is an important step to ensuring the injured employee receives the rights and benefits of various leave programs and that the district complies with statutes, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) and the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA).

Some districts accomplish this by assigning responsibility for workers’ comp and leave to the same individual or department. In districts where responsibility is in different departments, staff have made a concerted effort to work cooperatively and share information.

Workers’ comp vs. leave

Employees who suffer a work-related illness or injury are entitled to necessary medical treatment and may receive partial income benefits (e.g., Temporary Income Benefits (TIBS)) during a sustained absence. The workers’ compensation statute includes no provisions for leave entitlement or job restoration and there is no obligation for the district to continuing paying contributions to the individual’s health insurance premiums.

A person with a work-related illness or injury that results in missed work may also be eligible for leave benefits including the following:
  • Family and medical leave (FML)
  • State personal and sick leave
  • Temporary disability leave (TDL)
  • Assault leave
  • Local leave (e.g., sick, personal, extended or catastrophic, bank or pool)
Each of these benefits provide some measure of job protection or restoration and may provide full- or partial-paid leave. When leave is paid, the district is required to pay its regular health insurance premium contribution.

Employee election of leave

The employee has the choice to use paid leave during a workers’ compensation absence. [Texas Labor Code § 504.052] Workers' comp rules prevent employees from receiving more than 100 percent of their pre-injury average weekly wage if they elect to use paid leave while receiving TIBS. Districts can adopt an “offsetting” policy that limits employees to using fractional amounts of leave while receiving TIBS so the combined amount equals the pre-injury weekly wage.
If the district has not adopted an offset policy, the employee may choose one of the following:
  • To use available leave and postpone TIBS until leave is exhausted or to the extent that paid leave does not equal the pre-illness or pre-injury wage
  • Receive TIBS and forego the use of available paid leave
If the district requires the employee to use paid leave for a workers' comp absence, he or she also will be eligible to receive TIBS at the same time. The combined benefits could be greater than the pre-injury wage, thereby providing an incentive to remain out of work as long as possible.

Since the election to use paid leave can impact the amount of TIBS received, it is important for districts to document the employee’s choice to use or forego paid leave for each claim. A sample form to document the employee’s election are available online in the Workers’ Compensation Library (see Leave Election Form) and in the HR Library in the HR Services myTASB resources.

FMLA and workers’ comp

Any workers’ comp absence that results in inpatient care or more than three days of absence with continuing treatment will qualify as an FMLA serious health condition. FMLA provides greater rights to job restoration and continuation of health insurance contributions than workers’ comp. Therefore, it is important to determine an employee’s eligibility and comply with federal regulations to designate the absence, including providing notice in a timely manner.

Federal regulations address the interplay of FMLA and modified duty programs. [29 C. F. R. § 825.220(d)] Districts can follow workers’ comp rules and offer an employee a modified-duty position when the health care provider certifies the employee is released to return to work with limitations. Under FMLA, the employee is permitted, but not required, to accept the position and continue on FML. However, under workers’ comp rules, refusal of modified duty may result in the loss of income benefits.

If the employee accepts the modified assignment, the time spent in the assignment does not count toward the employee’s FML entitlement and the employee’s right to restoration to the same or equivalent position remains in effect as long as the employee is in the modified assignment. If the duration of the employee’s modified duty assignment is not limited, the employee’s right to restoration expires at the end of the 12-month leave year defined in Policy DEC (LOCAL).

Additional information about leave benefits and the coordination of leave is available in The Administrators’ Guide to Managing Leaves and Absences. The fourth edition was released in September and is available for purchase in the TASB Store.


Inside HR Services

Changes to HR Exchange publishing dates for December

Because of website maintenance and holiday schedules, the HR Exchange will not be publishing any issues in December. However, it will run both November issues and return in the first week of January to resume its regular schedule. We want to thank our readers for their continued support and patience as we look forward to a great new year.

Extra-duty stipend survey launched

The 2016–17 Stipend Survey launched October 25. Be sure to take part so your district can create custom stipend comparison reports in DataCentral using your own data. This annual survey covers more than 70 common extra-duty assignments in athletics, performing arts, and academics. November 18 is the deadline to submit your data.

Updated federal poster now available

As of August 1, 2016, all employers are required to post the revised Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA) notice. The HR Services poster, Federal Work-Site Postings for Texas Public Employers, has been updated to include the revised FLSA and Family and Medical Leave notices and is now available for purchase in the TASB Store.

Welcome our new HR Data Analyst, Patti Ellis

Patti joins TASB HR services after spending three years as an HR Manager at KIPP Austin Public Schools. She also has worked for Google as a Recruiting Coordinator and the University of Texas System as an HR Business Partner. Patti graduated from Tarleton State University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and a master’s in human resources management. 


HR Extras

TEA announces Texas Rural Schools Task Force

Commissioner of Education Mike Morath announced last week the creation of the Texas Rural Schools Task Force, a team designed to share insights and pursue opportunities for innovation in teacher recruitment and retention in rural districts.

Texas has more rural districts than any other state in the country, with more than 20 percent of campuses falling in non-urban areas. This task force will provide districts an opportunity to crowdsource impactful ideas about resource allocation, use of technology, parent and community engagement, and how to handle and prevent teacher attrition.

The task force is made up of superintendents from all 20 ESC regions, and each member was selected based on outstanding student achievement and a willingness to innovate. The team will meet four times in Austin over the next five months. 

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