Fayetteville School Board Unanimously Approves Increases for Certified and Classified Employees

FAYETTEVILLE — The school board unanimously approved new pay scales for certified and classified employees in the district during Thursday night’s regular monthly meeting at the Ray Adams Leadership Center.

The raises for certified employees (teachers) are mandated by the LEARNS Act, Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ signature legislation that overhauled the state’s education system and increased the state’s minimum teacher salary to 50,000. $.

Under the LEARNS Act, every certified employee must see a raise of at least $2,000 next year, Chief Financial Officer Mickey McFetridge said when he presented the proposals to the board at its April meeting.

The schedule gives the district time to assess the effect of the LEARNS Act on Fayetteville’s budget, McFetridge said. To meet the LEARNS Act requirement, the district is adding $2,000 to each certified salary schedule cell, McFetridge said. All milestones remain intact under that plan, McFetridge said. Teachers with upcoming increments will get them and the $2,000 raise, he added. On average, that’s an increase of about 3.5% districtwide, McFetridge said.

Fayetteville’s certified salary schedule for the 2023-24 school year starts at $52,000 for a teacher with a bachelor of science degree and no experience, according to information provided by the district. This teacher receives $52,646 after one year of work and $53,359 after two years, with similar increases continuing each year and reaching $63,240 after 18 steps, according to the district.

Salaries are higher based on years of experience and degrees earned, with a teacher with a doctorate having a maximum salary of $82,894 after 30 steps, according to district figures.

The district is also increasing salaries for its classified employees, including guards, bus drivers, food service workers and a wide variety of support staff.

Each classified cell will receive a raise of at least 25 cents, McFetridge said last month. Some cells will move closer to 80 cents to make entry-level pay more attractive, McFetridge said. Besides competition with other school districts for employees, there is growing competition from the industries themselves, he said, whether it’s food service, hospitality or other occupations.

The council then heard from Amy Jefferson, director of child nutrition, about the proposed price hikes for school meals. One proposal calls for a 10 cent increase in the price of breakfast and lunch for students and the price of breakfast for adults. Another is asking for a 25-cent increase in adult lunch prices, according to district information.

Here’s a look at what prices would be after the proposed increases, based on information provided by the district:


$2.25 breakfast, K-12

$3.25 lunch, K-4

$3.45 lunch, grades 5-12


$2.75, breakfast

$4.45, lunch

The increases will pay for higher food and supply costs, salary increases for child nutrition staff, rehiring efforts and improvements to equipment and menus, according to district information.

The board will vote on the proposals at next month’s meeting.

In other cases:

The board unanimously approved Julie Williams as assistant superintendent for new superintendent John Mulford. Williams, currently superintendent of Alton R-IV Public School District in Alton, Mo., said she has been in public education for 31 years. Williams served as Mulford’s deputy superintendent in West Plains, Mo., she said, and they worked together for 13 years.

“Fayetteville has one of the strongest reputations in education,” Williams said. “I feel like I’m in good shape.”

Mulford and Williams both start on July 1.

Mulford succeeds John L Colbert, district superintendent since 2018. Colbert, 68, is retiring this summer after a 47-year career with the district.

The council paid tribute to Thelma Thomason, a kindergarten teacher at Vandergriff Elementary School, who is retiring after a record-breaking 61-year career in Fayetteville public schools. His freshman year was the 1961-62 school year, according to district records.

The Board voted unanimously to retain the current leadership structure of President Nika Waitsman, Vice President Megan Tullock and Secretary Tim Hudson. This vote is required at the first regular meeting following certification of an annual school election, according to information from the district.

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