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Board hears post referendum progress

By Ben Rodgers

SUAMICO – The school board received a post-referendum update from administration at the Monday, April 23, school board meeting.

Matt Spets, assistant superintendent of operations, reminded the board of the district’s goal to have the best compensated employees, compared to peer districts, by 2020.

With the passage of the referendum, the district will use $1.2 million on average a year, for five years, to increase employee compensation.

While the referendum does provide the mechanism necessary to achieve this goal, the rollout for everyone will take place over the coming years.

“We can’t just do that,” Spets said. “We have all employees to consider, support staff and others. We need to do this thoughtfully and in different levels.”

The first level, which will take place in May, will allocate $438,819 to get roughly 200 teachers level set, or on pace with wages comparable to those offered in peer districts.

The maximum amount that will be used per employee to accomplish this is $3,100.

The second part of that formula will use $581,180 to give all employees a 2.76 percent raise.

The educators making the minimum base salary of $40,000 can expect an adjustment and the raise as well.

The district’s compensation committee will also obtain the most up-to-date information on neighboring districts and their wages moving forward.

“We have a commitment knowing how to adjust the formula as we go forward,” Spets said.

Spets also gave an update on the facilities maintenance the district plans to do moving forward.

With the referendum passage, $1 million a year will be used to maintain buildings in the district. An additional $1 million or so from a fund balance will also be used for three years.

“The more we engage with facilities, you’ll hear Forest Glen a lot and Bay View a lot,” Spets said. “They will appear quite a bit.”

The community will also get a chance to be involved with future building needs discussions via a committee coming this fall.

A conceptual building innovation fund was also brought up by Spets at the meeting.

The fund could restore funds to administration in each building that were cut when last year’s referendum failed.

“It’s really empowering the principal to be the instructional leader we know they can be,” said Mark Smith, assistant superintendent of learning.

Principals would be able to use these funds for innovative instructional arrangements, performance acknowledgements, and research and development.

No dollar figure was attached to the innovation allocation as the idea is purely conceptual at this point.

Smith also gave an update on the hiring of new teachers to reduce classroom sizes.

As of April 18, there was an average of 53 applicants to fill each of the 10 open positions at the elementary level.

“It’s a bit cumbersome when you’re looking at filling this many positions throughout the district, because you want to make sure you have a process, as an employee to get the right fit,” Smith said. “We want to hire them the first time and not miss.”

The deadline for applications is April 27. After that principals will narrow candidates down to get the best fit for their schools.

“Principals want the best, but yet they also realize they’re part of a team, but they also have a process put in place where they are screening all the applicants,” Smith said.

In other news, Teresa Ford was elected president of the board for the upcoming year.

Mark Ashley was elected vice president and Jeff Eilers was named CESA 7 representative.

Frank Ingram, Howard resident, also voiced some concerns during the community input session of the meeting.

Ingram wants to see the board include hyperlinks with the online agendas so he is able to get background information prior to the meetings.

In order to do that, the idea would have to be approved as an agenda item for discussion before the board would have the final say.

“I’m frankly astonished at the petty bureaucracy that is involved in you making this minor change,” Ingram said.
Ingram also voiced his displeasure with the meeting dates.

“I’m interested in what the school board does,” he said. “I frankly don’t have the time to attend every meeting, and I noticed on some cycles you actually have your meetings at the same time as the village of Howard, which is not the most convenient for people interested in public affairs.”

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