WEST TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV)– The Vigo County School Board approved a substantial pay increase for starting teachers during its meeting on Monday. 

The new collective bargaining agreement, a two-year contract, includes a raise from $40,000 to $46,500 in the first year and $48,000 in the second year for new teachers. Existing teachers not yet there will be brought up to that level, and others will receive a $4,500 increase over the next two years. 

Vigo County Schools superintendent Chris Himsel called it the “biggest-ever agreed upon package” by the corporation and the teacher’s association. 

“We made some significant investments with this contract. It doesn’t solve all the issues, it doesn’t solve all the problems that we need to address but it made a significant jump in that process,” Himsel said. 

Himsel said the increase was necessary to make VCSC more competitive with other corporations. He mentioned that before this new deal, around 60% of teachers were making less than $50,000 annually, a number that will drop to around 45%.

“That’s significant because we know our neighbors up I-70 in Marion County are paying over $50,000,” he said. “We have to be able to compete, not only with other school districts in the Wabash Valley, but recognize that a lot of the younger generation is much more mobile and willing to relocate.” 

While he said this is a positive step, there are still some inequities to be addressed in future negotiations. 

“We were able to address beginning salaries, but I think there’s some people in the middle we would’ve liked to give a very similar type of raise, and they have earned that with their action and work they’ve done throughout the years. Unfortunately, there wasn’t enough money that was provided through the legislative process to be able to address all of those needs,” he said. 

In other business, the corporation also discussed around $4.7 million in HVAC, roofing and paving projects across around a dozen facilities for 2024. The board approved a proposal from Martin Riley to go ahead with design/planning on those projects, which still need to be bid out. 

John Newport, the Chief Operating Officer for the VCSC facilities of operations, said it will be paid for with existing bonds from the corporation.

“We’re working these into general obligation funds. We’re planning those budgets with the bonds we already have procured. We’re not going out and getting new bonds for these projects, these are bonds that have already been engaged with by the school corporation,” he said. 

Himsel praised the proposal for being “proactive” in determining what equipment and buildings needed upgrades most, referencing complications from the heat wave towards the start of the school year as a situation they hope to avoid going forward. 

“With the HVAC projects, what I’m most proud of is the fact we are in the process of transitioning from reactive maintenance to proactive maintenance, and I think that’s one of the things I want to complement Mr. Newport on, is his look at data, and letting that data drive the process,” he said. 

Newport said he hopes work on those projects can begin sometime around in spring or summer of 2024.