The Superior School Board approved increasing pay for school nurses and a statement expressing a commitment to providing educational equity for all students at its regular board meeting Monday, Jan. 11.

The boost in pay for nurses was a new action item for the board, brought forward after the recent resignation of two district nurses. The registered nurse (RN) from Northern Lights Elementary School resigned in October and the district has been unable to fill the position. All three candidates who were offered the job declined it because of pay, according to director of human resources Molly Devine Webb.

The nurse at Four Corners Elementary School was reassigned to Northern Lights, she said, and the nurse at Lake Superior Elementary School is now splitting time between Lake Superior and Four Corners.

The nurse at Superior Middle School resigned last week, Webb told the board.

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“I’m worried that we will not be able to fill that position if we don’t increase that salary schedule,” she said. “That’s the second largest population school, so we need to have an RN at the middle school.”

The registered nurse salary will increase $5 from $23.13 to $28.83 per hour at the starting step, graduating up to $36.49 per hour at step 10, which is an increase of more than $10 from the old schedule.

Salary schedule increases for licensed practical nurses, certified medical assistants and the health services coordinator were also approved by the board. The district currently employs five registered nurses, three licensed practical nurses or certified medical assistants and one health services coordinator.

Even with the increase, the district’s pay rate for nurses is about 10% below that offered by Duluth schools, Webb said.

“We don’t necessarily compete with other school districts in the area; we compete with hospitals,” said district administrator Amy Starzecki.

Board members asked if contracting with a hospital for nursing services might be more cost effective. In 2017, the district contracted for services and spent nearly twice what it would cost to retain an RN at the increased salary schedule, according to business manager Alayna Burger.

She told the board that savings the district has seen in other areas of the budget would be available to cover the increases.

“We wouldn’t go over budget because of this,” Burger said.

The board also adopted a racial educational equity statement, which was developed by the district’s new equity and social justice leadership team. It is designed to provide a framework to break down barriers to success for students of color in the district.

“The district’s historic, persistent achievement gap between white students and students of color is unacceptable,” Starzecki told the board at its Jan. 4 committee of the whole meeting.

Furthermore, the gap doesn’t align with the district’s vision of “All means all, every student, every day.”

“We as a district are committed to making sure that race is no longer a predictor of student success and achievement,” she said. “We know that educational equity benefits all students in our entire community; it doesn’t just benefit students of color, and it can make us all better as a school district.”