Board of Education discusses employee compensation

BY ALICIA FEYERHERM

USD 489 Board of Education met Monday and reviewed the collective bargaining agreement for the upcoming school year. For certified employees, $1825 was added to the base pay as well as longevity bonuses for individuals serving the district for 25 years or more. Individuals were moved incrementally based on the salary schedule. 

Classified employees received an increase of seven percent of base pay, which in most cases equates to about a $1 an hour increase. 

Board member Curt Vajnar emphasized the importance of rewarding classified employees because the district is competing with other businesses in town to keep employees. 

“That group and that salary level can get a job wherever they want,” Vajnar said. 

Board President Craig Pallister agreed, saying that retaining paras, custodians and other classified staff members has been a challenge, and he hopes the raise in pay helps. 

Discussion then moved to the approval of a 4.35% raise for Directors, Administrators and Other Licensed Personnel. 

Vajnar brought up that, unlike teachers, administrators are not on a pay schedule or scale. This means a percentage increase impacts all individuals differently and leads to somewhat significant differences in the amount of the raises, as opposed to a flat rate raise.

Board member Meagan Zampieri-Lillpopp agreed and said this discrepancy could be discussed at the board’s retreat on August 7, but since there is no other structure currently in place, she recommended moving forward with the raises.

Board member Alan Park then brought up the budget. In 2021, the Administrative Support budget was $4.6 million.  In 2022, it was $5.7 million. Park questioned why there was such an increase in Administrative Support. 

Assistant Superintendent of Business Services Chris Hipps clarified that “Administrative Support” goes far beyond administrative salaries. 

“That’s transportation, that’s heating and cooling, that’s building maintenance,” Hipp said. “When you say ‘administration,’ it’s everything above a classroom expenditure.”

Even so, Park said he would vote against the motion because he believed the board had not done its due diligence to dive into those expenses and reviewing administrator contracts. 

“We spend a lot of time with our teachers,” Park said. “We spend months and weeks talking with them and negotiating. This is the most we’ve ever talked about it is this meeting here.”

Board member Tammy Wellbrock pushed back on Park’s statement. 

“I don’t think we keep great administrators when we have conversations that imply they don’t do their jobs, which you (Park) have done often, and I don’t think we keep great administrators if we don’t pay them accordingly,”  Wellbrock said. 

On the issue of the administration budget, board member Ken Brooks pointed out that the board reviews the budget annually and that  “this is brought to our attention already.”

Zampieri-Lillpopp agreed, saying this motion looks specifically at the salaries of administrators and directors and does not address any of the other items in the administration budget. 

“To vote against it for other reasons other than that these personnel deserve what they are being paid for is not the duty of the board,”  Zampieri-Lillpopp said.

Pallister, a former Hays Middle School principal, recognized the role of administrators has become increasingly more difficult since his retirement six years ago. Administrators have faced the pandemic as well as other challenges and should be rewarded.

“It isn’t an easy job,” Pallister said.  “We need to be able to respond and give an appropriate raise when we can.”

Pallister further elaborated that limits in the state’s budget impact the amount salaries can be raised and there is no way to predict what the next year could bring. The board may not have the opportunity to approve a wage increase of this magnitude next year. 

“We’re trying to hold onto these people,” Pallister said. “We should be saying, ‘We’re glad you’re here; we’re going to represent by a pay raise that represents all of our administrators.’”

Pallister called for a vote. The motion was approved 6-1, with Allen Park voting against.

Other items discussed:

  • District Nutrition Aides serving free summer meals were recognized. An average of 810 meals are served each day. 
  • Dan Balman was recognized for his retirement. Balman, who also was the Audio/Video Instructor for Hays High School, has streamed 429 Board of Education meetings. 
  • The 2023-2024 Board of Education calendar was approved. 

The next meeting will be on July 17.

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