PHOTO: The Williamson County School Board work session meeting Thursday night in Franklin // Photo by Alexander Willis
BY ALEXANDER WILLIS
Superintendent Mike Looney said during a Williamson County Schools (WCS) board meeting on Thursday that he would like to make teacher salaries more competitive this upcoming fiscal year, with an estimated cost to the district of $15 to $20 million.
The starting salary for a teacher in Williamson County is $37,500, compared to $43,363 in Davidson County.
“I’m not suggesting that we pay the same as Metro, but what I am suggesting [is] that we narrow the gap so that people are willing to give up some money to come work in Williamson County,” Looney said. “I’m estimating the cost of just that alone is going to be between $15 and $20 million dollars. This is the year we’re going to try to make that happen.”
Looney clarified that when he said “this year,” he meant this upcoming fiscal year.
WCS board member Candy Emerson, a teacher herself in Williamson County for more than 20 years, said the issue of paying more competitive salaries for teachers hits close to home for her.
“We have been visiting this many times, and not been able to do anything to address this. We’ve run out of time… it has to happen,” Emerson said to the board. “The thing is that we have such an incredible county, but to know that we’re losing all of these people because they can’t even find a place to live that they can afford… it’s nuts. People want to be here but they can’t afford it.”
Beyond the less-than-competitive teacher salaries in Williamson County, the cost of living in well above the national average. BestPlaces, a demographic and geographic data organization, finds that the median home price in Williamson County is $442,800. The median home price in Tennessee as a whole is $156,800 – 182 percent less expensive.
Looney said the school district had already conducted a compensation study, and that the findings indicated WCS District is well below the market when it comes to hiring teachers. Looney also said that implementing more competitive salaries will be tough, given the district has more than 6,000 employees.
“This is going to be a really tough lift for us this year,” Looney said to the board. “It’s going to be hard to spend the kind money that we’re going to have to spend to get us to a point where we can be competitive. I just want you to prepare for that.”
Looney said that further discussions on the implementation of more competitive wages for teachers will be had during the November 5 meeting of the board. That meeting is open to the public and will be held at the Williamson County Administration Building at 1320 West Main Street, Franklin, TN 37064.