Editor’s Note: This opinion piece was written by by Dr. Lolli Haws, superintendent of the Racine Unified School District.

Every day, as I visit our schools, I am reminded how fortunate I am to work in a district full of talented, committed and passionate educators and staff, to lead in a district full of diverse and intelligent young learners and to live in a community filled with people who support our public schools.

It is the needs and desires of these various stakeholders that the Board of Education and District leadership must consider when we make important decisions, especially those that impact our budget.

On Monday evening, the Board of Education will hold a special work session to hear the District’s recommendation for salary increases for our employees. District leadership has worked extremely hard to balance our budget in very tight fiscal times, while maintaining excellent learning opportunities for our students and identifying funds to provide salary increases for our employees.

We have made difficult decisions, carefully considered every item in the budget and remain committed to providing fair and competitive salary increases as we have for the past three years. In fact, our salary and benefits package for teachers is among the top five percent in the state.

Our recommendation to the Board this year will include salary increases averaging from 2.62 percent to 3.12 percent for every RUSD employee group. If the Board approves our recommendation at the next Board meeting,

RUSD employees will receive their salary increases in November as well as retroactive pay.Union representatives have asked for even larger salary increases – totaling an additional $2 million. We simply cannot afford that. Nor would it be fiscally responsible. We are obligated to balance the needs of our schools and our staff with those of our taxpayers. Investing in our employees Our staff work tirelessly every day to serve our students, their families and our community. They do it because they are passionate, talented, smart people who believe in the potential of every child.

I place great value on our employees and I am committed to demonstrating that through fair and equitable salaries. I am also committed to maintaining competitive salary and benefits packages to continue to attract and retain high quality staff. The recommendation we will present to the Board of Education on Monday evening does just that. It provides fair, equitable and competitive raises for our employees.

Regardless of what happens at these School Board meetings, our 20,000 students will continue to walk through our school doors every day and our educators and support staff will continue to teach, to guide, to mentor, to support our students. They will continue to drive our success. And together, we are succeeding. I am so proud of all of the positive results we are seeing – consistently climbing graduation rates, improving math and reading achievement and many strong partnerships being built in our community. We are poised to exceed expectations this year!

I am hopeful that in these next weeks, the Board of Education will move forward with fair and affordable salary increases that recognize the value of our talented staff and everything that they contribute to our students, our schools and our community.

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Denise Lockwood has an extensive background in traditional and non-traditional media. She has written for Patch.com, the Milwaukee Business Journal, Milwaukee Magazine and the Kenosha News.