For most of the day, Laura McCoy is either busy teaching a class of young Fort Wayne Community Schools students – or ushering the next class through the doors of her music room.
She uses her lunch hour to meet with St. Joseph Elementary student choir groups so they don’t miss out on valuable academic time.
“I’ve learned to work straight through lunch so I’m not at school all night,” McCoy explained. “After school, I pull out materials for the next day, organize and make copies. … I’m usually leaving by 4:30 or 5 p.m., but I take work home as well.”
Local teachers making some of the highest wages in Allen County school districts aren’t necessarily those working the traditional school day, but rather the teachers coming in early, leaving late and dedicating part of their summer to students.
The top-paid teachers in Allen County teach every subject, according to salary information provided to The Journal Gazette through public records requests.
Indeed, at a time when some educators are decrying a lack of funding for the arts, a band instructor is the highest-paid teacher at one local district and second-highest-paid at another.
An English teacher at South Side High School earned $98,671.07 last year, the most of any teacher in the county.
Taking on more
School officials said there are reasons why some teachers receive higher salaries than their peers based on experience and extracurricular activities. Like coaches do, band directors, agriculture teachers and others receive additional compensation, said Julie Hyndman, president of the Fort Wayne Education Association.
The additional compensation is a percentage based on the individual’s salary and a scale determining how much each director will receive, she explained.
“And there are additional responsibilities that go along with that,” Hyndman said.
Teachers who dedicate the most hours are paid accordingly, explained Northwest Allen County Schools Superintendent Chris Himsel.
“The people who are higher-paid are also those who are working more days and longer hours and take on more responsibilities,” he said.
For example, the district’s agriculture teacher makes more than other teachers because she works an extended contract, he explained.
The teacher oversees the district’s agriculture science classes and FFA program. She teaches classes, but also works with about 170 students in the summer or before and after school, depending on the season, Himsel said.
“The growing season is during the summer, so for students in our FFA program, that’s really the peak time for doing projects and completing their work,” he said. “They plan in the winter, begin in the spring, execute those plans in the summer and finish up in the fall.”
So unlike some teachers with traditional school year contracts, teachers carrying the weight of a full class load and before- or after-school activities that sometimes extend into the summer months have contracts that extend with their schedules, officials said.
For some schools, that might be a basketball or football coach, but for others it’s a band director, said Kirby Stahly, assistant superintendent of administrative services and business manager at East Allen County Schools.
“In general, the more assignments and duties they have on top of a normal teaching load, the more potential they have for those increased salaries,” Stahly said.
At EACS, the highest-paid teacher is Woodlan Intermediate School band director Robert Slattery. Stahly said Slattery’s position atop the teacher pay scale is likely because of the stipend he receives as marching band director.
“But we have lots of other teachers who receive stipends for additional duties assigned to them,” Stahly said. “And additional contracts for teachers who teach summer school.”
Two Homestead High School band directors at Southwest Allen County Schools also rank among the top-paid teachers for that district, according to salary data.
The band directors, Steven Barber and Bradley Wadkins, declined to comment.
Barber has been with the district 17 years and Wadkins has served for 21 years; their tenure contributes to their pay, said SACS Superintendent Steven Yager.
“It’s really something that’s evolved over their experiences here. They’ve been quite successful and have been down to the state finals many times over the years,” Yager said.
Barber and Wadkins arrive early in the morning and Yager said when he leaves at 5 or 5:30 p.m., they are still out practicing with students.
“I don’t begrudge anything they make,” Yager added. “They put in the time, and the results of their efforts speak for themselves.”
Lane Velayo said he’s pleased to hear local teachers who go above and beyond the classroom are being paid accordingly. Velayo serves as executive director of the Indiana Music Education Association, an organization that supports music education for students and professional development and services for music teachers.
“We recognize that they are on scale to make X, Y, or Z based on the school corporation. But we hope some of those salaries reflect the amount of time that our music teachers and band directors spend with their students both during the school day and outside of the school day.”
Most days, band teachers work with students before school to practice, during school for regularly scheduled courses and again after school to prepare for competitions and performances, Velayo said.
“And all of those expectations that come with the job are expectations that many other educators don’t have to deal with,” he added. “And they aren’t necessarily paid any extra for their work.”