BATESVILLE, Ark. — Batesville School District is making national headlines because teacher pay has increased and will continue, all thanks to going solar.
“There had been a history of some inefficiencies,” said Michael Hester, Superintendent.
Before Hester became superintendent in 2017, the Batesville School District paid well over $600,000 for annual utilities.
A district hurting financially and struggling to keep teachers, Hester and the school board developed a strategic plan to attract and retain staff.
“We became the first solar project and the largest energy efficiency project in the state,” said Hester.
The district partnered with the central Arkansas based company Entegrity in 2018 and became solar.
They also turned to more efficient utilities, like new LED lighting and heating and air systems.
The company promised the district at least a $2-million savings in 20 years, but so far in two years alone, the district has already saved upward of $1-million thanks to the 100+ solar panels on school property converting sunlight into electricity.
“We’ve created more money to deliver our staff,” said Hester.
The solar savings is allocated solely to staff to create higher pay in hopes to retain teachers, and the ones in the classroom are already seeing the benefits.
“Being able to have that little extra income in our paycheck every month helps with the extras that you might want, especially with Christmas coming up,” said Jeanne Roepke, Batesville High School teacher.
Since going solar, in 2019, the average Batesville teacher got a $2,000-$3,000 annual raise. More experienced teachers received up to a $9,000 raise.
“It took us from worst to first in our area,” said Hester. “It took us from the lower quartile in the state for teacher pay to the upper half in pay in the state.”
The district’s next goal is to be in the top 25% in the state’s teacher pay category within the next few years.