PSJA school board OKs pay raises for staff

Board members for the Pharr-San Juan-Alamo school district approved pay raises for the 2020-21 school year during Monday’s board meeting.

The increase consists of $1,700 for teachers, librarians and nurses, and a 3% pay increase from their mid-point for professional, paraprofessional and auxiliary staff.

“We are excited to announce a pay increase for employees,” School Board President Jorge Palacios stated in a release. “We appreciate their work and dedication, and value their contribution to the success of our PSJA students.”

The release says starting pay for teachers is now $52,600 and at $64,615 for all teachers with 21-plus years of experience, and that hourly employee pay will now start at $12.00 per hour. The release notes that the district continues to pay 100% of healthcare base plan costs for all employees and is continuing to lower taxes yearly.

“We thank our School Board of Trustees for this token of appreciation for our entire staff, especially as we continue to work through this pandemic,” Superintendent Jorge L. Arredondo wrote. “I would also like to commend our Business Services for the ability to balance our budget and ensuring we could afford these raises that are important to the well-being of our staff members and families.”

The pandemic was also cited as a factor in supporting the 3% increase by board members at the meeting, a percent above the increase proposed by administration.

“I would like to see, if it’s feasible, for us to do a 3% straight across the board for all employees, especially now with this pandemic. I think that the employees deserve it; I think that the school district could find a way to make it happen. I know that this will go a long ways for all the employees,” Board Member Jesus A. “Jesse” Zambrano said Monday.

Other board members, while supporting the increase, urged caution because of the financial uncertainties caused by the pandemic.

“I think our teachers understand, they know what we’re going through. So, I’ve talked to several people and they’re OK, they’re not expecting a raise, but whatever we can do. Like Mr. Villegas said, I’d like to give them 8, 10%. But not this year, with these tough times we’re going through,” board member Victor Perez said.