For most businesses and realtors, Lake of the Ozarks is the strongest magnet attracting employees and buyers. The Lake is just as powerful an attraction for area schools, but Camdenton RIII understands it takes more than a great natural resource to bring and keep professional staff long-term. The Board and administration have implemented policies to make its schools competitive and effective.

For most businesses and realtors, Lake of the Ozarks is the strongest magnet attracting employees and buyers. The Lake is just as powerful an attraction for area schools, but Camdenton RIII understands it takes more than a great natural resource to bring and keep professional staff long-term. The Board and administration have implemented policies to make its schools competitive and effective.

At June’s Board of Education meeting in Camdenton, Vice-president Nancy Masterson asked administrators and Board members for guidance in a response to the Missouri School Board Association (MSBA) request for information about attracting and retaining teachers.

The MSBA inquiry is likely a reaction to two facts about the teaching profession in Missouri.

First, fewer college students are completing requirements for teacher certification, according to a January 2019 State Board of Education meeting where Assistant Commissioner Paul Katnik shared data about the current state of education in Missouri. What this means for every district across the state is fewer candidates in the pipeline to public school classrooms. A smaller applicant pool makes attracting candidates more competitive. Second, 30% of Missouri’s teachers have 0-5 years of experience, making retention critical as well.

District Superintendent Dr. Tim Hadfield and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Ryan Neal shared the key components of Camdenton RIII’s proactive policies that are aimed at attracting candidates and long-term retention. 

Recruiting Candidates Begins with Compensation

Camdenton’s Board of Education set a goal for the district: offer salaries that are in the top 10% of salary schedules across the state. This brings Camdenton schools to the attention of candidates near and far. An attractive cost of living at the lake and the lake itself add value to salaries making Camdenton one of the most competitive districts across the state.


District-Paid Health Insurance

In both the public and private sectors, employees are paying more and more for health insurance premiums and deductibles. Those costs may diminish the effect of higher salaries, but Camdenton RIII pays the premium cost for employees. The plan also holds copays to $30 and generic drug costs to $10, two components of the District’s plan that are viewed positively by staff. One other benefit is that employees can add a spouse and children to their policies. Even though employees bear the premium cost for family members, that premium cost is somewhat offset by a large enrollee pool.


Attendance Incentives

One more attractive feature of Camdenton’s compensation package is a set of attendance incentives that make 9 annual sick days and 2 annual personal days valuable. Any of those days not used during the school year will be “bought back” after July 1 at the rate of $50 per day. A teacher who was able to set medical or service appointments for school holidays rather than instructional days and was therefore present every day could receive up to $550 after school ends.

In addition, the value of those sick and/or personal days accumulates so that at retirement, teachers can once again cash in. The District will buy back all accumulated days and thereby reward employees for their presence and longevity. In fact, those who’ve been with the District longer receive a higher reward while those who’ve been employed by Camdenton RIII less time still receive a prorated reward.


Retention Begins with Support

One of the most important tools to retain and nurture an experienced teaching staff is support. In some districts, first-year teachers are left to “sink or swim” on their own leave, and many of these leave the profession or transfer to another school. Such losses cost districts valuable time and money as they must continually recruit and train replacements. Retention saves both and builds a stable, satisfied staff.

The Camdenton district provides “constant and immediate feedback” for two years according to Dr. Neal, and this, he believes, sets the district apart. Instructional mentors and coaches help teachers learn best practices to manage classrooms, workloads, and curricular goals.

A college classroom prepares teachers by building a foundation in content knowledge while providing an array of methods to guide students to mastery. Still, first-year teachers have little practical experience in matching their content to the State and district’s curricular goals while also meeting the needs of a diverse student population using the best methods. Mentoring supports teachers as they make decisions in the best interest of students.


Retention Continues with Career Ladder Compensation

Another equally important practice in the Camdenton RIII District is known as Career Ladder, once in use across the State and retained by Camdenton when the State dropped the program. Dr. Neal says the reason Camdenton opted to continue the Career Ladder program was “…to focus spending toward specific district goals [with an] … intended outcome … that is measurable and attainable as it pertains to student achievement.” In other words, the district incentivizes teaching staff to advance instructional goals. Teachers can earn up to $4,000 in addition to their salary if they choose to participate in Career Ladder, doing work that is above and beyond their contracted work day and individual teaching assignment.