Employees of the Van Buren School District will receive a 3 percent pay increase with the 2018-19 school year.

Members of the school board voted 7-0 Tuesday night to approve the recommendation of Superintendent Dr. Harold Jeffcoat for the hike in base salary.

“We want to give our students the best educational experience possible,” he said. “The way we do that is to hire the best teachers and retain the best teachers.”

Jeffcoat said the pay increase will cost the district about $875,000, which will be covered in part by an increase in state funding.

“Over the past two years we have reduced unnecessary spending and ended with healthy balances which enabled the district to give bonuses,” he said. “We have that healthy balance for a third straight year so I feel very comfortable with this.”

A teacher with no experience and a bachelor’s degree will have a base salary of $38,728 as compared to $37,600 currently. Pay increases to $43,850 by year 10 and to $56,350 by year 30.

With a master’s degree, a teacher with no experience will be paid $42,748, increasing to $46,978 by year 10 and $58,850 by year 30. A starting teacher with a doctorate will get $47,628, climbing to $52,628 in 10 years and $65,128 in 30 years.

District employees also will receive a 3 percent increase in their healthcare costs as well as an increase from $10,000 to $30,000 in life insurance policies, Jeffcoat said.

The board voted 7-0 to hire Arch Ford Cooperative to provide alternative learning education services for the district’s students.

Jeffcoat said the district will provide the facility and some auxiliary services such as cafeteria, custodial and some clerical.

All teachers in this new system will be employed by Arch Ford.

“Our current teachers will be transitioned to fill open positions in other buildings throughout the district,” Jeffcoat said. “If they don’t want to leave ALE, they will have the opportunity to apply and interview for a position with Arch Ford.”

Jeffcoat told the board there is a movement across the state to break away from the traditional model of ALE and implement one created by Arch Ford Cooperative, which is designed to provide greater support for students in the area of mental health.

“By moving to this system, we also will be able to increase the number of available seats for our students, which is especially needed in the lower grades,” he said.

Jeffcoat said both Johnny Key, commissioner of education, and Stacy Smith, assistant commissioner, support the new model.

“Additionally, several highly respected schools have implemented this new system effectively in their districts in the last couple of years,” he said.

Board member Theresa Bell and Jeffcoat took a team to the Conway School District in early April to view the new conception in action.

“We were extremely pleased with what we saw,” Jeffcoat said. “We believe this will provide greater support for our students and help better our needs throughout the district.”