Members of the St. Paul Public Schools' leadership team will begin a new school year with a 6 % bump in pay.

The school board on Tuesday unanimously approved the raises after a compensation study suggested the state's second-largest district was at a competitive disadvantage in attracting and retaining top-flight talent.

Board Member Jeanelle Foster acknowledged that action involving many of the district's top administrators might be viewed unfavorably by some, but she believed it was needed to help establish St. Paul as a "premier place" to work and educate.

Union pay scales, which govern pay for teachers and other workers, also are being reviewed for possible changes, too.

"I think some folks will hear one part of this and say, 'Oh, we're starting with ... the highest-paid people in our district,'" Foster said. "But note there's a process in this to get everyone where they're supposed to be in this space."

Superintendent Joe Gothard, who is in the first year of a new contract paying him $256,000 in 2023-24, is not part of what is referred to as the "superintendency group," and as such, was not among those awarded pay hikes Tuesday.

Administrative compensation has drawn tight scrutiny in St. Paul in the past.

Two years ago, the board balked at an initial proposal to increase wages and benefits for the then 25-member administrators group because it included elements outside those settled by the district's bargaining units, which serve as a blueprint for the nonunion compensation.

An agreement later was reached for district leaders on a stripped-down pay package priced at about $140,000 over two years.

Tuesday's increases are expected to cost $205,395.

The board's approval followed the recommendation of a K-12 consulting group, Evergreen Solutions LLC of Tallahassee, Fla., which was hired by St. Paul to study the compensation of "professional-level" employees — including those in four bargaining units.

Evergreen's review began a year ago and included salary comparisons with 17 school districts — 11 in Minnesota and six similarly sized school systems elsewhere in the U.S. — plus the cities of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and Ramsey and Hennepin counties.

Two bargaining units — the St. Paul Supervisors' Organization (SPSO) and Professional Employees Association (PEA) — were found to have minimum pay levels below those in the other markets, resulting in pay scale adjustments that will net members of SPSO and PEA an additional $173,237 and $159,863, respectively.

For superintendency members, Evergreen pointed to where the district fell in the middle of that group's pay ranges: 15 % below the market it established for comparison purposes.

Patricia Pratt-Cook, the district's executive director of human resources and talent acquisition, told board members she knew anecdotally of former leaders who left the district for higher-paying jobs in suburban school systems.

Until St. Paul strengthens the pay of those in the heart of the administrative order, it will be "difficult to say we're going to become market leaders," she said.

Next up this fall in the Evergreen salary review: the district's hourly workers.