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School wage vote delayed

The Superior School Board is taking more time to mull over proposed changes to employee wages.

On Tuesday, the Board voted unanimously to table an item calling for adjustments to administration and support staff employees’ wages and the elimination of current salary schedules. The Board was scheduled to discuss the matter in closed session Thursday and revisit the plan at its August meeting.

“This is a big decision,” said Len Albrecht, Board president. “I want everyone to hear it and discuss it one more time.”

The salary adjustments — intended to bring wages up to the average level of surrounding districts — would have applied to three of the 11 job classifications among administration employees and 20 of the 26 classifications among support staff employees.

School bus drivers, who are among the six classifications not scheduled for a salary adjustment, spoke against the plan at last week’s committee of the whole meeting. They would have received a 1 percent raise in lieu of a salary adjustment, but the drivers said they would rather keep their step increases.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Jean Drolson spoke on behalf of the school district’s secretaries, who are in favor of the changes.

The district pays secretaries far less than they can get elsewhere, Drolson said, and schools are losing employees as a result.

“Many experienced secretaries are leaving for better pay and benefits,” she said.

Drolson also said the step increases now in place offer little incentive for secretaries to stay. After six years of service, secretaries earn only about $2 more per hour.

As a group, Drolson said, the secretaries feel a salary adjustment is the best option.

The Board declined to take action Tuesday, but superintendent Janna Stevens said the district is not scrapping its plans to adjust employee salaries. Board members have only delayed action to make sure they have all the facts, she said.

During its July 7 committee of the whole meeting, the Board split on the best course forward.

Christina Kintop urged action. She said she understood employees’ concerns but saw no alternative available to the Board.

“Do we have a million dollars somewhere that I don’t know about,” she said, offering that figure as an estimate for the cost to keep salary schedules while also offering salary adjustments.

Sheila Keup and Steve Stupak asked for more time to evaluate options, and Robert Morehouse said his biggest concern was losing employees to Minnesota districts that can offer more enticing benefits.

“Because they’ve got a governor over there who supports education,” he said.

The Superior School Board’s next committee of the whole meeting is scheduled for Aug. 4. Items moved forward from that meeting will be subject to final approval at the Board’s regular meeting on Aug. 12.