GHC Board of Trustees approves increased wage opportunities for faculty

All full-time faculty members at Grays Harbor College — including those at Stafford Creek Corrections Center — can expect a raise this year after the college’s Board of Trustees approved a memorandum of understanding that adjusts the college’s salary schedule at its meeting Tuesday afternoon.

The negotiations came in the wake the board’s approval of President Ed Brewster’s new three-year contract, which included an annual salary increase of $36,000 — a 24 percent raise — in September. The raise, which was given due to issues of “retention,” was not received well by faculty union members, who acknowledged that while Brewster may deserve such a raise, they believed raises to retain quality faculty members were needed as well.

Faculty union members met with GHC administrators for the past month and are pleased with what they consider an accomplishment both for educators and the college as a whole.

“GHC is a great place to teach, and a great place to study. There are good reasons for our first-in-the-state ranking from Washington Monthly,” said Lynne Lerych, president of the Grays Harbor College Federation of Teachers, referencing a nationwide report released in August that ranked Grays Harbor College as the top community college in the state and 15th in the nation.

“Increases in salary should help to make the college even more attractive to current and future faculty.”

Faculty salaries are set based on a combination of their education and years of experience. The new changes effectively raise all faculty salaries by about $1,300, including new faculty, and also raises the maximum attainable salary of the most experienced and educated faculty.

For example, a new full-time faculty member with a master’s degree and four years of experience will see a yearly salary of $43,894, instead of the $42,573 they would have received prior to the negotiated changes.

About 43 full-time faculty members who were as far as they could go on the schedule, in terms of years of service and their level of education, will receive raises due to the addition of another step, Lerych said.

She said union members negotiated the changes based on a shared interest with administrators in improving faculty salaries for the benefit of the school, which despite recent high rankings has lower-than-average faculty salaries. The average annual salary of faculty members at the college in fall 2011 was $52,034, compared to a statewide community college system average of $55,817, according to the Washington State Board for Community & Technical Colleges.

The results for the past year won’t be available for several months

“It’s true that salaries for GHC faculty have been low compared to those at other colleges around the state,” said Lerych.

“The raises have moved salaries for full-time faculty at GHC up closer to the state median.”

Brewster, who called the faculty wage increases “long overdue,” said he hopes they will aid in the retention of current faculty.

The funds for faculty raises, which will equate to about $80,000, according to Brewster, are possible because the Legislature restored a 3 percent cut to salaries college-wide it had instituted during the last biennium. The college and faculty negotiated how to absorb the cuts when they were put in place, but now the money has been restored. The money from the state has also been used to return classified staff salaries to 100 percent, and those who were at the top of their range for a certain number of years also received an increase of 2.5 percent.

For exempt employees, the college used the restored money to increase the level of selected positions, due to increased responsibility or issues of retention. For example, a director became the assistant dean, according to Brewster.

“I also hope that it will help us to attract additional excellent faculty for our future vacancies,” Brewster said. “Quality faculty are the key to the mission of the college, which is the success of our students.”

As for the union’s next step, Lerych said they plan to work toward increasing the salaries of part-time faculty members.