Cashing in on the future


Laurel Seidensticker

According to the American Psychological Association (APA) money is the top reason for Americans to be stressed in 2015

A 2019 article from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch placed Kirkwood second for median salary in the St. Louis area. With competitive pay and above average test scores and graduation rate, KHS was rated the fifth best public high school in Missouri in 2021 by U.S. News & World Report. But while academically Kirkwood does well, some teachers worry KSD is slipping behind the local region when it comes to teacher salaries.

The KSD salary schedule can be found on KSD’s website. Teachers’ pay is based on where they fall on the salary schedule, which is based on years of teaching experience and education. A first-year teacher starting at KHS with a bachelor’s degree would make $44,800 for that year and earning higher degrees allow teachers to earn more money.

Teacher salaries are decided based on a salary scale that takes into a count education and years at Kirkwood (Ally Hudson)

“I know in the past [financial support from the district to obtain higher education] was very generous to me,” Cindy Coronado, a KHS gifted education specialist, said. “I received both my masters degrees for very little money because I took advantage of that furthering education.”

Coronado thinks providing money for employees getting degrees helps both the district and the employee. Some teachers agree the district’s coverage of tuition for higher degrees is well executed. But in cases like paid family leave, some teachers say the district is lacking in support.

“I think public education, in general, fails in benefits [because] we have no paid family leave,” Lisa Shinabargar, social studies teacher, said. “At Kirkwood the only [paid] leave we get is medically necessary, which is six weeks if you have a kid. The only part of [maternity leave] that’s paid is using sick days.”

Some teachers feel KSD is falling behind surrounding schools in regards to salaries. The concerns over paid family leave and salaries come up when KSD holds talks between a committee of teachers and people from the central office. At these meetings, teachers are allowed to give their opinions on the next year’s salary schedule.

Five of the top schools median salary for teachers from the St. Louis, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (Ally Hudson)

“We are not allowed to start [conversations] until December,” Carolyn Fogarty, math teacher and salary committee member, said. “When we start, we have our teacher group that meets with the central office, like the superintendent and the financial officer. We start talking and typically finish around March.”

The committee is made up of 12 teachers from the district, some who are voting members and some who are not. They come from the teacher unions NEA and MSTA, with four representatives and two alternates for both unions. For many years these meetings resulted in salaries and benefits that brought teachers to Kirkwood.

“When I started in [August 2015] Kirkwood was the place to be,” Shinabargar said. “It was known across the state as one of the best paying districts, one of the happiest districts, and [where] teachers were most appreciated.”

Then, in 2015, when a proposition failed for a 78 cent property tax increase, salaries were frozen by the district for one year. With temporary halting of raises, and below inflation pay raises, a first-year teacher with a bachelor’s degree, who would have made $42,800 in 2013 ($50,063 in 2021), is instead making $44,800 today. 

“There’s always room for improvement,” Fogarty said. “I wouldn’t be [at KHS] if I wasn’t happy. I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t like it. But I think there are always things we can do better.”