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De Pere to look at support staff salary schedule

By Ben Rodgers

DE PERE – De Pere Superintendent Ben Villarruel got the go-ahead from the school board Monday, July 15, to rework the support staff salary schedule.

“If I’m going to be consistent with what I’ve done to the teachers, I’m not opposed to see if we can truncate the (support staff) salary schedule,” Villarruel said at the board meeting.

On March 18, the school board adopted a new teacher salary schedule that condensed two lanes into one with a higher base pay.

Villarruel said the problem with the current support staff schedule is once employees hit the top level, the increase is not as significant each year compared to those on lower levels.

This is because employees would only receive a percentage increase, not a step increase as well.

“The issue is people at the top aren’t getting a more significant salary schedule increase,” he said.

Board members expressed confidence in the administration doing the legwork for developing a more competitive support staff pay model.

“I trust the administration is looking at the benefits and pay, trying to balance everything, because it’s apples to oranges,” said Bob Matthews, board member.

Board members Jeff Mirkes and David Youngquist excused themselves from the discussion because they have spouses who work as support staff for the district.

In other news, the board received formal approval to start the borrowing process from the Board of Commissioners of Public Lands State Trust Fund for the remodeling of Dickinson Elementary School and the purchase of IT equipment.

The amount Dawn Foeller, business manager, requested for the loan is not to exceed $530,000 for both projects.

The board approved allowing her to apply for two State Trust Fund loans.

The total amount for Dickinson could be as high as $406,743, which includes asbestos removal and a 5 percent contingency.

For the IT portion, Foeller said that would be $115,084 for Chromebooks and monitors.

She said future IT budgets would cover the costs for financing, as they have in years past.

“Depending on how the 2018-19 year end closes out, we may be able to accommodate some of the above costs,” Foeller said. “The benefit to using the State Trust Fund is the ability to borrow only what you need and when you need it, thus allowing for flexibility to reduce the amount we borrow. The State Trust Fund has better interest rates (3.75 percent for up to 10 years) and the ability to prepay (the) loan should we want to do that.”

Foeller will look at other options in the coming days to see if the State Trust Fund is still viable in terms of favorable interest rates.

Any changes would need to come back to the board for approval.

Finally, the school board heard an update on the Farm to School program from Heather Reitmeyer, food services manager and Farm to School coordinator.

“In Farm to School, it’s all about the food,” Reitmeyer said. “Within our program this past year we served 15,000 pounds of local produce to our students. That’s not counting dairy, just produce.”

She said the program has been around for eight years and uses produce grown in Wisconsin.

The district also uses numerous school gardens to provide produce.

“Within the district it’s all about the community, and Farm to School brings together all grade levels and all departments, and we try to incorporate that in our Farm to School program,” Reitmeyer said.

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