Van Buren School Board members approved a new 2017-18 school year calendar and changes to the certified salaries and stipends during their regular meeting on Tuesday.

Board members approved a $5,000 stipend increase for certified speech therapists, doubling the total stipend to $10,000. The increase was made as part of an effort to draw new applicants, Superintendent Dr. Harold Jeffcoat said.

“We want to make sure that someone who is receiving a board certification stipend is making the same as the school districts around us and across the state,” Jeffcoat said.

Van Buren School District has multiple speech therapist positions it has been unable to fill because the salary offered by the district was below market, Jeffcoat said.

“This will bring us much closer to the market pay,” Jeffcoat said.

Jeffcoat added that the district saves money by hiring in-house speech therapists rather than outsourcing the job.

Last year, the district spent about $200,000 on outsourced therapists, Jeffcoat said. Two years ago, the district spent about $150,000 - when an additional therapist was on staff, he said.

An eight-member supplemental salary committee formed to streamline and improve the salary and stipend schedules and clarify job descriptions recommended the stipend increase, Jeffcoat said.

Also recommended by the salary committee was the move of a $2,000 doctorate stipend to the salary program. The recommendation was approved by the school board.

Board members also approved a new calendar for the 2017-18 school year, which was chosen by certified staff via a poll.

Changes to the calendar versus the current year include a move for the start of the school year from Aug. 14 to Aug. 16, a staggered but extended Christmas break and a move for parent-teacher conference from before spring break to after.

Also approved Tuesday night was the resignations of 20 certified and three classified employees at the end of the current school year, renewed contracts for 33 administrators, and the hiring of two classified employees.