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Carmel Clay starts school year fully staffed, credits unpaid perks

Carmel Clay Schools Wellness Center helps employees, saves money

CARMEL, Ind. (WISH) — Students are back in class this week at Carmel Clay Schools, which is fully staffed with teachers. 

The district says despite shortages across the country, employees want to work in Carmel and point to unpaid perks as to why.

Carmel Clay Schools offers all staff and their families access to a Wellness Center. There are doctors, a pharmacy, workout classes, financial help, and even low-cost childcare. The district says taking care of employees’ overall health, is paying off and saving them millions of dollars.

“Just because you feel valued. That you as a person are valued along with the skills you bring into the classroom,” Jennifer Tracey said.

Tracey and Beth Snell are elementary school teachers in Carmel, and are both moms of two young kids. Before class, they do a workout class at the district’s Wellness Center and drop their kids off at the childcare in the building. 

“It feels really good – I know that they are safe, I know that they are loved. And most importantly I can do what I need to do to stay healthy and they are in a good place,” Snell explained.

The Wellness Center is across the street from Carmel High School and opened in 2013. The benefits are for employees who use the district health insurance and their families, at little to no cost to the staff.

“The Wellness Center is everything from doctors’ offices, mental health services, physical therapy – you can get prescriptions through the doctor’s office at no cost and then workout classes,” Tracey said.

The district says the health services are free. As for the boutique fitness studio, it costs $10 a month and is open 24/7. Fitness classes, such as spin, boot camp, and Pilates are $4 dollars a class. The district says more than 72% of the employees use the facility and around 58% of their spouses and children are also utilizing services offered at the health center.

“When you take care of your employees, they take care of you,” Carmel Clay Schools Associate Superintendent, Roger McMichael, said.

According to McMichael, taking care of staff improves retention and saves the district around $8 million a year.

“None of this is a cost. It’s almost like the more money we spend the more money we save and the more lives literally that we save,” McMichael explained.

He says in total, the district spends around $25 million in healthcare costs. The less they spend on healthcare, then the more positive outcomes and the more money that is available for salaries.

“It’s a pretty simple formula – healthy people are less expensive than sick people. That is not our motivation, our motivation is to help take care of people,” McMichael said.

The district says starting pay for teachers is $42,000 to 45,000 a year – which is on par with most of the state. They say the unpaid benefits are a bonus on top of pay and save families money they would otherwise be spending.

The district also helps by offering low-cost educational childcare at 15 locations in or near schools. It’s called ‘Edu-Care’ and the district doesn’t make any money on the program.

The program is described online as “a private center serving children ages six weeks to 5 years old of Carmel Clay Schools employees.” The district says Edu-Care is purely a way to help staff find affordable and convenient childcare.

“I think it makes a big difference,” Snell said. “Not only is it cheaper – but it also is very convenient. And so we just love it. The teachers are great and we have had a good experience.”

“Just the ease of it and the fact it is promoted and encouraged within our district is a wonderful thing just for whole body wellness,” Tracey said.

Whole body wellness is why the district says it’s not facing the same teacher shortage as the rest of the state and country. 

Indiana is currently short about 1,800 teachers, according to the Department of Education. While the district admits fewer people are applying to open positions, once staff is hired, the district says the employees stay at their jobs.

“We’re helping the adults, that is what this is doing, who then, in turn, help the children,” McMichael said.

A method paying off for students in the end. Perhaps a lesson in education for everyone.

“I definitely feel really blessed to be able to have this here in Carmel,” Tracey said.