By: Jessica Opoien
School psychologists and nurse assistants in Oshkosh will receive the school district’s first-ever market-driven salary increases.
The school board approved a resolution, which grants three currently-employed school psychologists $20,000 raises each and boosts the hourly pay for nurse assistants by $1.50 or $2.50, depending onexperience, at its Wednesday meeting. The raises for school psychologists range from 37 percent to 43 percent more per employee.
The district has struggled to fill substantial vacancies throughout the last year-and-a-half. Five out of seven psychologists and five out of nine licensed practical nurses have left the district in that time, with three psychologists leaving since August. Postings for LPNs have yielded one applicant per vacancy, and there is virtually no candidate pool for psychologists.
There are 15 districts across Wisconsin with open psychologist positions, according to postings on the Wisconsin Educator Career Access Network. However, districts are in direct competition with medical facilities and private firms that employ psychologists, and no applicants have responded to Oshkosh’s four vacancies for psychologists.
The district is obligated to employ school psychologists for special education assessment and placement, said Superintendent Stan Mack during the meeting.
“As we well know just dealing with the issues in the last week, supporting students in crises demonstrates the need for psychologists well beyond the need of special ed assessment and special ed placement,” Mack said.
Six districts surrounding Oshkosh pay their psychologists an average salary of $67,000, according to a survey conducted by the Oshkosh district. Psychologists in Oshkosh earn an average salary of $47,000.
School nurse assistants face a similar situation. In Oshkosh, they earn between $14.98 and $15.85 per hour, while the regional average pay is between $16.33 and $20.77 per hour, depending on experience.
Mack said responsibilities for school nurses have increased as students’ medical conditions have grown more complex, adding that the current compensation rate is inadequate to recruit and retain LPNs in the district.
The raises follow a series of other compensation-related resolutions aimed at curbing turnover and attracting new employees to Oshkosh schools. The board over the past three years raised salaries for its top administrators 24 percent in direct response to difficulty retaining employees. Last month, the board voted to spend up to $350,000 next school year on raises for teachers who earned graduate credits during pay freezes.