PHOTO: Superintendent Mike Looney addresses a crowd during the annual State of the Schools address on Tuesday at the Cool Springs Marriott in Franklin. // Photo by Alexander Willis
BY ALEXANDER WILLIS
Superintendent Mike Looney called for more competitive teacher salaries in the Williamson County Schools district during the annual State of the School address on Tuesday morning at the Cool Springs Marriott in Franklin.
“I can’t hire new teachers with a Bachelor’s degree right out of school because I’m not competitive anymore,” Looney said at the address. “I don’t have a solution to this, but 12 miles to the north they pay $5,000 more a year. We’ve got to solve this together”
The starting salary in Williamson County Schools for a new teacher with zero experience was $37,500 for the 2018-2019 school year, compared to Davidson County’s $43,363.
In fact, Williamson County Schools new teacher starting salary is lower than Wilson, Montgomery, Rutherford and Dickson Counties, whose respective starting salaries for teachers are $40,420, $40,140, $40,000 and $38,652. Franklin Special School District is also competitive with Davidson County, with a new teacher starting salary of $40,450.
“I don’t go a month without losing half a dozen people to somebody else that pays more,” Looney said. “I’m not talking about getting into a salary war with any other district. What I’m talking about, is let’s pay them competitively so they can afford to live around here.”
Looney explained that solutions to this problem are currently being explored, such as implementing a COLA, or cost of living adjustment, to teachers’ salaries. A COLA is an increase to salaries, wages and benefits to account for the increasing cost of living. Other potential solutions Looney explained were potentially increasing the number of days that teachers work, extending their contract.
He said Williamson County salaries begin to catch up after teachers gain seniority and advanced degrees. But Looney said that he hopes Williamson County Schools can be more competitive in its starting teacher salaries as soon as next year.
“We need to figure out a solution [on] how we’re going to pay our teachers well, and here’s why that matters. It doesn’t matter who your Superintendent is. What really matters is the teacher that closes the door, drowns out the noise, and teachers kids.”