CNMI Public School Employees To Get First Salary Increase In 10 Years

Board of Education wants to recruit, retain qualified teachers

By Erwin Encinares 

SAIPAN, CNMI (Saipan Tribune, Feb. 24, 2017) – The Board of Education approved yesterday a proposal to give salary increases to all Public School System employees—a first in about a decade.

The PSS-initiated proposal seeks to adjust the compensations of entry-level positions of both certified and non-certified employees as well as to increase the wages of older employees.

With the newly-approved proposal, entry-level positions at PSS for certified or non-certified teaching and non-teaching positions would now start at $16,100, as opposed to the former $15,000.

The adjustments would take place in fiscal year 2018. The start of the new fiscal year is Oct. 1, 2017.

The budget for PSS for next fiscal year, which was also approved yesterday, adjusts the total amount from $51 million to $54 million to reflect the wage adjustment.

BOE chair Marylou S. Ada, who led the meeting yesterday, believes it is about time to raise the wages of PSS employees.

She said it is also a good way to retain and recruit employees.

“It is about 10 years overdue and the compensation plan really works to the advantage of the [employees] now, so we want to retain them as well as recruit highly qualified teachers to teach out here in the CNMI,” she said.

Ada believes the passage of the adjustment allows the CNMI to be up to par with other school systems when it comes to attracting highly qualified employees to come out to the CNMI and be employed under PSS.

“We have some vacancies and we want to be competitive, not just here in the Pacific region but in the 50 states as well,” she said.

Included in the compensation adjustment is a merit system that rewards employees who widen their qualifications by getting a higher degree.

Ada said if employees decide to go for a master’s degree, a pay increase may be directed toward the employee for taking the step, positively reinforcing employees to seek higher qualifications.

“The more you improve, advance, and the more you study, [the more] you get compensated for it,” she said.

The entry level salaries would start at $16,100 and would rise depending on qualifications following a 5-percent increment.

“We want to be competitive with the other states. We don’t want [teachers] to [not work in the CNMI because] the pay scale is so low and the standard of living in the mainland is very high,” said Ada.

“We are so happy that we are able to do this because our staff really deserve a pay raise for all the hard work that they do,” she added.

Education Commissioner Cynthia Deleon Guerrero expressed thanks to the board’s approval.

“One of the reasons why we spent the past two years doing a market study as well as certification requirements is [PSS] wanted to make sure that our certified and non-certified staff’s salaries are competitive,” said Deleon Guerrero, citing the difficulty PSS faces when it comes to recruiting and retaining highly qualified teachers and employees.

“We wanted to make sure our salaries are more competitive [compared than others],” she said.

According to Ada, the CNMI government’s additional appropriation of $2.7 million to PSS so it could pay its debt to the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. helped PSS move money around to allow the compensations adjustment.

Public Law 19-75, signed into law last Dec. 20, 2016, directly allocated about $10.2 million in additional funding to PSS.

“Paying CUC helped us a lot to have some money to work with,” said Ada. “When we paid, it freed some money for us to move around and do things such as increasing employee salary compensation.”

Saipan Tribune
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