5 Considerations When Evaluating an Educational Job Offer

5:00 AM Sarah Koves 0 Comments

Two days ago I was offered a different teaching position at a neighboring school district. I have been at my current job since 2009. Before that, I was unemployed after being laid off in 2008 due to budget cuts after five years at that district. I began my teaching career at a small, rural charter school for arts and technology.

Twice in my career, I have had a job that I was comfortable with and been offered another position. These decisions are the hardest to make because you are comfortable and know the position you are in, and while the new job may be more money, better benefits, or some other wonderful offer, there is a lot to consider before leaving what you know to jump into the unknown.

I have interviewed for seven full-time teaching jobs in my career and been offered four of them. In addition, I have interviewed for a part-time teaching position and a full-time administrative position.
5 Considerations When Evaluating an Educational Job Offer

I certainly hope that these thoughts and my experience can guide you as you look at changing jobs. It will be helpful to you if you can obtain copies of your current and offer contracts before working through these considerations; often these are available on the district website through transparency reporting.

Download the 7-Page Reviewing an Educational Job Change Opportunity Workbook

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In no way am I a financial or legal expert.  This post is simply based on my experience and should not be substituted for a professional financial adviser or lawyer.

Many people want to look at salary before anything else, but I always want to start with insurance because one's insurance plan can affect your pay. As a result, it is helpful to have an idea of what impact insurance will have before looking at salary.

Be sure to look at the plan and not just the cost because there are different things included and excluded on plans. In addition, the coverage percentages and out-of-pocket costs can differ significantly.
Also, inquire into the yearly and lifetime maximums on the insurance plans.

I actually set my current plan next to the options from the job offer. The job offer would have put me ahead in the insurance department because they had no premium costs, the same network and coverage, and a pre-funded deductible. In addition, my current dental insurance has a maximum on orthodontics, but the offered plan had covered services up to the age of 19.

There is more to the salary part of a job offer than just the dollar amount.  That matters, but also ask about the pay options; do they pay in 26 pays, 21 pays, lump sum in June, twice a month, once a month? How often you are paid can drastically affect how much you bring home.

If you are a mid-year hire and on the 26 pay plan be sure that you understand that you will be spreading your 1/2 year amount over the summer as well as the rest of the school year if you choose that option.

If you have teaching experience, you need to know if the new district is going to give you any credit for the years of experience that you have: EXPERIENCE MATTERS.

If you are in a unionized area, there will be dues to be paid to the union.

When moving from state to state or internationally, there can be tax implications as well.

I am always very cautious of offers for extra-curricular activities, clubs, and coaching that are part of the salary package because they mean extra work and time and usually are guaranteed.

My offer was a mid-year hire, so the salary would be calculated on the number of days I work, and I could choose to spread it over the rest of the school year or through the summer as well. 

My offer included six of the fifteen years that I have taught; disappointing for sure.  

All-in-all the job offer was significantly less that what I am making now, but the decision wasn't made at that point; especially since the insurance benefits were so much better and would save us almost $300 a month.

Longevity and Retirement
It is incredibly helpful to compare the top ends of pay scales. I like to look at Master's +20/30 credits and 20 years of experience. This is probably pretty close to where I will be when I end my career, and districts can vary greatly at the top end. Often times the lower halves of pay scales are similar, but you see the true indication of where the district is salary-wise when looking at the top end.

Retirement and pension plans vary by state and district, but there are some general guidelines. In most pension plans the final amount of your pension is calculated in some way on the salary that you make at the end of your career. This is another reason why I always compare the top ends of the pay scales; one job might provide a much higher ending point.

For the offer I received, the top end of the pay scale was significantly higher. However, after closely looking at their contract, I realized that longevity after the first 10 step was based only on years of service in their district. That would mean a significant change in my current years of service.

Neither my current position nor my offer would have drastically changed my pension (well, at least not until after a significant amount of time in the new district). I would have been able to continue my retirement account as well with school change.

Download the 7-Page Reviewing an Educational Job Change Opportunity Workbook

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Culture and Work Environment
There is a lot to be said about the culture and work environment of a school. The culture and work environment, in my opinion, are what makes some schools wonderful places to work and others not so much.

My best advice with culture and work environment is to ask questions and don't be afraid to gut gauge a school or district because different people have different needs. Also be aware that districts (and candidates) always put their best foot forward in and interview.

I have always been able to tell if I was going to get a job offer or not after walking out of the interview. I also take an interview to be me interviewing the school as much as they are interviewing me. The four jobs I have been offered have all come from interviews that I felt were like conversations. The three interviews where I did not get offered the position all felt very forced and sterile; I am not sure I even wanted two of the three after leaving the interview.

There are certain aspects of a school/district that are important to me after working in five different schools.  I asked quite a few questions during my interview to try and get a sense of if the new school/district was a good fit for me.  One of the most important was how they were going to help me grow and become a better educator and what advancement opportunities might be available. 

 The job offer would certainly afford me opportunities that I don't currently have available or that are no longer available to me in my current position.

Twice I was laid off from the same job; once I was hired back. The first layoff was in March of my first year at the school. They hired me in June and then pink-slipped me in March for layoff at the end of the school year; DEVASTATED is the best way to describe it. I was also not happy because I left a stable job to come to this school. Fortunately, I was re-hired in April after some budget changes. However, they laid me off again four years later. I was called back a second time, but I had already accepted another position and moved my family.

How could I have avoided this?
Well, maybe I couldn't have, but I know I didn't check into the stability of the district like I should have.

Most school websites have a link to their transparency reporting. Many of them are on Munetrix. Use this information to find out what financial state the district is in. Some districts are running in the red or very close to it while others have a surplus. It is also a good idea to look at student enrollment: if the district's enrollment numbers are going up or holding steady, they are probably doing some things well.

Given my history with layoffs, I tend to be very concerned about the stability of my job. The school that offered me the position is slated to have two more teachers (in addition to the opening I filled) retire at the end of the year in my department. That would mean two new hires under me on the seniority list (of course in Michigan that doesn't mean much anymore). At my current district, I have been here longer (and teaching longer) than either of the other teachers in my department.

In addition to the above information, I looked at the enrollment and financial data for the new district. They are certainly financially stable with steady enrollment (this was the frustrating part after the salary/step offer they made me).
You must do what is right for your family regardless of the above indicators.

Having children adds another layer to the discussion as well:
Where do they go to school?
How accessible will you be to your children?
What is the commute involved?

My husband and I had to spend some time looking at the logistics of the job offer because it would have affected our whole family. I would no longer be teaching in the district where my girls go to school, and I would be driving 35-40 minutes a day instead of my 4-block commute. We also had to consider the girls' dance as that is 40 minutes in the other direction.

He and I decided that the logistics would work for our family if the offer was viable for me, and a happy mommy meant a happy family.

In the end, I didn't take the job offer because it was a step backward for us financially after crunching all the numbers. The work environment and opportunities for growth would have been great, but we couldn't take such a large financial cut without the kids and our basic expenses being affected. I wanted to be able to accept it, which is why we looked so long at all the above options, but in the end, the lack of credit for experience made it a no-go.

I have learned a couple of valuable lessons about elements of an offer that have to be taken into an account when switching jobs.

I also learned that I have value and while a person can be undervalued in one job it doesn't mean you should take the first offer that comes along to move without consideration for the long-term.

Download the 7-Page Reviewing an Educational Job Change Opportunity Workbook

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In no way am I a financial or legal expert.  This post is simply based on my experience and should not be substituted for a professional financial adviser or lawyer.
Have you ever been in this situation? I would love to hear how you handled it or how you reached your final decision.

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