Dear Families and Key Stakeholders,
I do not know how many of you subscribe to The Sacramento Bee, but today they published an article for subscribers called “Inexperienced teachers are often sent to low-income schools in Sacramento. Why that matters” (it will also be in Sunday’s paper). The Bee was clear with us on their topic, and we even provided them two teachers to interview. We are proud of both of them! In that article, the Bee makes a few points. It starts by saying 27% of our teachers are new to the profession. We know this is accurate because we reported the data and even shared those same facts in a communication last spring to our whole community. Natomas Unified has historical patterns of growth, then a moratorium or the economy causes a pause. After each growth spurt, new teachers are hired. NUSD has a pattern of hiring new teachers that tend to have less experience in the profession going back to at least 2002-03 (from what we can document). Trending younger is what happens when a district deals with rapid growth. Not many 15 year veterans give up tenure to move to a new district. We are growing! We have built 2 new schools, are constructing a 3rd, and discussed a 4th possible new school construction effort last night at our board meeting.
The Bee only touched on a few reasons why we trend “younger.” In the past 7 years, NUSD has added over 3,000 new students. In 2012-13, we served 12,454 students compared to 2019-20 where we serve 15,595. That’s an increase of 3,141 students over the course of 7 years. Obviously, we needed to hire lots of new teachers due to growth. The Bee referenced class sizes and new programs a little, but they did not include all of the programs we have added in the past few years:
- We’ve kept class size reduction averaging 24 to 1 at TK through 3rd grades, which means more teachers hired.
- We’ve added and significantly grown a myriad of programs including International Baccalaureate (IB), Advanced Placement (AP), Career Technical Education, and Early Learning where we have expanded preschool, Transitional Kindergarten, and Full-Day Kinder programs, which all require hiring more teachers.
- We’ve tripled our CTE programs in the last few years, which means hiring more teachers. Since these are specialized programs, most of these teachers have more years of industry experience and less in the classroom.
- We recently opened a new school, Paso Verde, due to growth which again required hiring more teachers. And now we are talking about building a new Dual Immersion school.
The article calls out a few schools that have young teaching staff. For example, The Bee says “At Leroy Greene Academy, 26 of 45 teachers had one or two years experience; 60 percent of students were eligible for free or reduced lunch.” That was true in 2018-2019. NUSD opened Leroy Greene Academy in 2012 with two grades (7th and 8th) and added a new grade level each year to where it is now a fully functional 6th – 12th-grade campus. I wish The Bee had shared that LGA’s three graduating classes have grad rates of 100%, 98.8%, and 98.5%. I wish they had also shared that LGA has college access UC/CSU a-g rates of 100%, 92%, and 97%. That data probably would not have helped the premise of their story.
The Bee also states that we have the lowest average salary. Also true, because once again, we provided the data. We also addressed this issue in the spring of 2019 to our whole community. This is not a complex math issue. When 27% of your staff are new to the profession, the average salary is lower. Since 2012-13, we have had 70 retirees, including 31 retirees that accepted a retirement incentive in 2016-17 that we offered at the request of the Natomas Teachers Association. Some of our highest-paid teachers were a part of the incentive, decreasing the average teacher salary and the number of teachers making $80k, $90k, or $100k a year. That intentional action protected Natomas’s budget. We knew it would lower the average salaries by offering the incentive and thus need to fill those vacated positions with newer teachers. Because of actions like this, we are not facing significant budget challenges like some other districts in the region and across California. Big budget challenges mean lay-offs. We have not had budget led lay-offs for years. So our newest teachers are not getting the “pink slips” (budget lay-off notices) referenced in the story other districts are experiencing up and down the state. This provides better job security for our newer teachers.
You should know, we offer competitive pay, and this year, we negotiated a contract that would get a 1st-year teacher with a credential to $50,000 by July 1, 2021, and a teacher that’s been working 23 years to $100,000, not to mention another 3% if they have a Master’s degree. Plus, Trustees last night approved a new salary schedule for LGA. In 2020-21 new teachers at LGA begin at $52,476 and can max out at $105,197.
What’s most important is that our students are achieving and succeeding because of you. Our graduation rate is 96% well above the state average and one of the highest in the county for all groups including African American, Hispanic/Latino, English Language Learners, and Special Education students. In addition, among 167 districts that tested at least 5,000 students for the state exam CAASPP, Natomas Unified ranked 1st in growth in English Language Arts and Math, a result of the teaching and learning that’s taking place in our classrooms. Our graduating class of 2020 has earned more UC/CSU a-g credits by their junior year than previous classes, and 70% of graduates in 2019 completed A-G courses that are required for CSU/UC college admission. We share all of these successes with you so that you know regardless of our teacher’s average years in the profession, our students are learning, growing, and graduating college and career ready!