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Sugar House Journal

GSD hopes higher teacher salary and detailed COVID-19 plans will entice quality applicants

Jul 29, 2020 12h37 ● By Heather Lawrence

By Heather Lawrence | [email protected]

The retirement of 19 long-term educators at Holladay area schools leaves a big gap in experienced teachers. Granite School District hopes that their newly approved pay scale will help attract and retain teachers, despite the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19. 

“In general, we are still seeing far fewer graduates in the state of Utah than we have in the past, which requires us to do a lot of out of state recruiting in order to fill all of our positions,” said Ben Horsley, director of communications for Granite District. 

“We are fortunately seeing about the same amount of applicants. There have been significant investments made to ensure our salaries are competitive with our surrounding districts, and that has been a great help in attracting high quality applicants,” Horsley said. 

In a board meeting June 16, GSD presented their annual budget and plans for new teacher salary increases. Mitch Robison, director of budget development, reported a proposed $50,000+ salary for incoming qualified teachers with a bachelor’s degree. There will also be a 5% cost of living adjustment. 

Teachers needed to quickly learn about distance learning when school went online in March. Horsley feels that the new hires, many of whom are recent college graduates and have likely used distance learning, will be prepared for the unique challenges that may come this school year. 

“Our new hires are well versed in distance learning strategies having utilized them for their own learning. Regardless, we provide appropriate new and ongoing professional development for teachers to enhance their digital instruction,” Horsley said. 

Horsley said the district doesn’t have specific numbers on teachers who chose not to return due to COVID-19 concerns. “I don’t have any detailed figures or numbers on [whether teachers have left due to health concerns] as of yet. It is still too early to see if any resignations or retirements are tied to a return to school this fall.”

The Utah Education Association has published several statements on their website as the situation unfolds. “UEA members need to know their rights and job protections. A flowchart was created to provide answers and assist members in getting assistance and advocacy to make decisions about returning to work,” said UEA general counsel Tracey Watson. 

UEA president Heidi Matthews has made several statements about the safety of schools reopening. “I’m hearing from teachers all around the state who are fearful their school district plans don’t go far enough to protect them and their students. We urge each school district to seek educator input in their back-to-school plans,” said Matthews in a statement dated July 8. 

“It’s important for us to get back to in-person learning, but we must make the transition in a way that does not unnecessarily endanger the health of our students and school staff. If we don’t prioritize the health and safety of school staff and properly accommodate high-risk employees, we fear schools may not remain open long,” Matthews said. 

Matthews also acknowledged that communities of color, which represent large parts of Granite District, were hit “unequally” by the pandemic. This demographic is also statistically underserved in education. Matthews said extra steps must be taken to “close the gaps that were exacerbated” by school closures.  

The homepage for GSD,, states, “We are working very hard to provide a high quality, individualized learning experience for all of our students.” The site has a link to help teachers with distance learning and a link for a tech support request for families. 

Horsley said that Granite is taking steps to make sure teachers feel that they are safe at work. “We have and continue to work with our teacher association on a variety of issues and questions regarding what classrooms will look like this fall.”