Big Park Community School sixth-grade teacher Laurie Altringer said she brought up her concern about her unaccounted-for decade of teaching experience before signing her employment contract, but was told to file an official grievance to amend her salary, the administrative equivalent of “we don’t have any actual rule about this, but a formal complaint will guarantee we’ll do what we just told you we’re supposed to do.”

So either Sedona-Oak Creek School District Superintendent David Lykins, or the district’s human resources staff directly under his command, assured Altringer that she would have the opportunity to defend her experience if she filed a formal grievance.

Granted, Altringer should have gotten that in writing before signing her contract, but as she was told this by a district employee hiring her, i.e., someone officially representing the district, she had no assumption the district would backpedal and deny her the pay increase she requested

At the Governing Board meeting about Altringer’s grievance, Lykins said, “For a new employee to come into our district and be paid more than a current employee who has the same experience and educational background, or more experience, and had those years in our district with our kids ... is not something the finance director, the HR department and I agreed with,” he said

OK, Mr. Lykins, if it’s not something you agree with, why pass the buck by encouraging Altringer to file a grievance with the Governing Board?

To prevent a lawsuit, maybe the board should pay Altringer by docking Lykins’ ill-earned $18,500 bonus, given to him while the SOCSD teaching staff suffered a pay freeze in 2015.

Or perhaps the board could pay Altringer from the funds unspent that same year on the public relations firm Lykins had to un-hire when it was revealed district staff fabricated bids from firms SOCSD never actually contacted?

The SOCSD policy manual is quite clear [Source: Arizona School Boards Association manuals \ Sedona-Oak Creek Joint Unified School District No. 9 \ Section G - Personnel \ GCBA - Professional Staff Salary Schedules]:

“New teachers entering the system with prior teaching service, who have met academic and professional qualifications for Arizona State Department of Education certification, will be given a maximum credit of five years for substantiated experience, i.e., placed on the seventh step of the salary schedule


“Verified previous experience recognized for the purpose of placement on the salary schedule is defined as any previous full-time certificated teaching in any public school.”

The Arizona Department of Education defines the state’s publicly funded charter schools as public schools, includes them on its rolls, calculates them in its accounting and uses their students’ testing for its statewide accountability assessments

Nowhere does SOCSD’s manual state that the state’s public charter schools are excluded from how the district counts years of experience, so the board’s decision to arbitrarily exclude Altringer’s experience because of what Lykins and the board cited as ethereal “precedent” is really just a matter of mistreating new teachers for the sake of fiscal convenience — and still nowhere in writing

If this really is how the district counts experience, why hasn’t the employee manual been updated to reflect this “precedent”? When Altringer brought this to the Governing Board’s attention, board members had the opportunity then to amend the teacher manual to codify the arbitrary exclusion of public charter schools, but did not, so still nothing is on the books

Note to the board: Writing new rules down is how you actually create “precedent.”

SOCSD is desperate for new teachers and for good teachers to remain. But in the long run, why will any future teacher, or any current one believe SOCSD will honor salary schedules in their contracts when this one can be so easily ignored?

How many dozen other salary rules remain unwritten?

The warning to all current and future and current employees is tape-record your employment negotiations because SOCSD administrators can’t be trusted to honor what they say

Christopher Fox Graham

Managing Editor