Success Story: Recognizing and Promoting the Benefits of a Salary Supplement

Kathy Wheat, SLP
Lawton Public Schools, Oklahoma

What did you do?

We had a continuing shortage of SLPs in my district. We approached our administration with the idea that, if our salaries were commensurate with what SLPs make in other settings, we would be able not only to retain staff, but also recruit additional qualified staff. We were able to demonstrate that the money used to pay agencies to provide services could be used to pay SLPs an annual bonus and that the school district would still save money. Our administration agreed to provide extra duty pay (salary supplement) of $5,000 to every licensed and ASHA-certified SLP in our district. Clinical Fellows receive $4,000 initially and the $5,000 annual bonus once they become ASHA certified.

What were your greatest challenges?

One of the first challenges was convincing our administrators that they could attract and retain licensed CCC SLPs in our district. The administration had contracted for SLP services for so long that they believed that shortages would always be there and that we could not compete with other markets in our area. Our other challenge was to convince our administrators that offering a salary bonus would have a significant long-term positive effect on speech-language pathology programs and services.

Fortunately, our administrators had vision and were willing to risk an initial financial outlay, confident that they would reap the rewards later. We also thought that it was important to educate our leaders about what we, as SLPs, do and what it costs to do our job. When we compared the cost of providing a bonus versus continuing to pay an outside rehabilitation company, the benefits became obvious and were our greatest negotiating tool.

What advice would you give to others?

If I were to give advice to others advocating for change in their districts, I would tell them to never give up! Speak with anyone who might make a difference. Never assume that the person you are talking with cannot make a difference. Take every opportunity to educate your listener about what an SLP does. There is a saying that change is inevitable, growth is optional. In my district we chose growth!

The rewards of our bonus have been incredible! With the money we saved, we have been able to develop an aggressive marketing plan, recruit and retain qualified SLPs, and have very low staff turnover. It has allowed our department to expand, attracting SLPs from other markets. We are implementing a new dedicated assessment and service delivery model, which has allowed us to standardize our evaluations and reduce the amount of time that a student spends in treatment. We are also able to offer two major continuing education programs per year, which enable our staff to obtain the required CEUs for ASHA, the Oklahoma State Board of Education, and the Oklahoma State Licensure Board.

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