• By Ashley Lisenby St. Louis Post-Dispatch 

    ST. LOUIS • The St. Louis Public Schools’ appointed School Board approved a union contact on Thursday that guarantees raises for teachers over the next three years.

    The contract negotiated by the American Federation of Teachers of St. Louis Local 420 calls for compound raises based on experience of 2.75 to 3.25 percent yearly until 2020.

    The contract takes effect in April. Local 420 president Mary Armstrong could not be reached for comment.

    Board member Richard Gaines said he believed the raise was in line with a promise the board made to increase teacher salaries after voters approved a tax increase last year.

    “We made a promise as a body that once we began talking about this we would do the absolute best the school system could do to address how bad and uncompetitive our salary structure has been for the past years,” Gaines said. “I don’t want anyone to believe we’ve resolved all of those issues. We have not. But we believe this represents a good start towards that.”

    St. Louis city has long had the lowest average teacher salary compared with school districts in St. Louis County and St. Charles County. In 2016, the district’s average teacher salary was $46,386, compared with a state average of $49,060 and an average of $59,712 among St. Louis-area district schools, according to state data.

    Superintendent Kelvin Adams has said that the low salary is one reason the district struggles to keep dozens of teachers from leaving every year, but that other costs such as a growing pension contribution hampered the district’s ability to raise salaries.

    The district’s annual pension contribution grew to $31 million in 2014 from $19 million six years before, at the same time it is losing hundreds of employees who could have contributed to the pension plan.

    Meanwhile, longtime teachers have lamented what they say are too few pay increases. Their last pay increase was a 2 percent bump that went into effect in July. Teachers received a few one-time salary adjustments of more than $1,000 in the last three years. The last 2 percent pay increase before that happened in the 2012-2013 school year.

    The board also discussed plans to rebrand eight district schools with low enrollment, including Clay, Farragut, Hodgen, Laclede, Walbridge elementary schools, Long Middle School, and Northwest and Roosevelt High Schools to make them competitive with other schools.

    Some themes include an emphasis on law and social justice, global studies and languages, and science and technology. The board did not say how much efforts to update schools inside and out would cost.

    Kristen Taketa of the Post-Dispatch contributed to this report.