The Rest of the Stipend Story: Behind the Abstentions and No

By Scott Farnsworth, Interim Executive Director

First, it was very helpful of the District to send out its email to clarify for everyone who exactly is included in the School Board’s motion to grant a one-time, 1.5% stipend bonus to all “full-time” employees.  Quite honestly, I had thought that the motion would have included anyone receiving a regular paycheck from the District and would, therefore, have included the Noon Hour Supervisors.  That, apparently, is not the case.  To their credit, the Board took the action to not only recognize the extraordinary efforts that staff have exerted in keeping education moving forward under the most challenging of conditions, but with the added intent of having the bonuses available by the Winter Break.

What the District’s email left understandably unstated, however (“understandably,” because they cannot speak for individual members of the Board), were the reasons behind the abstentions and no votes by those who have been among our strongest supporters.  If you were unable to be at or view this Tuesday’s special meeting, that addition to the District’s email may have left you a bit confused.

Simply put, Kyle Flood, Rebecca Stevens and Mike Falkofske wished to do more and for more people.  In that statement, I do not wish in any way to imply that the other School Board members did not share the same sentiment – they voiced their desire to do more on several occasions.  The three members who did not vote in favor of the stipends simply believed that there was more money available in the budget if it could have been reconsidered – a motion that Mr. Flood stated he had tried to have added to Monday’s agenda.  There also seemed to be a belief that some discussion of providing more to those employees who have been trapped at the lower end of the pay scale was a concern about the percentage stipend and a major motivation behind the idea of an equal stipend across the board.  So, to be clear, these three Board members did not oppose providing employees with compensation – quite the opposite.

I would also note that there was a serious discussion about the need to do something to recognize and compensate employees who had pursued advanced degrees.  I believe this discussion was the result of a single teacher appearing at the October meeting who effectively expressed the frustration and inequity that exists in a system where a current employee does not receive the same recognition for education that a new employee receives when first hired.  This is the power of one voice speaking the truth – supported at that meeting by a host of fellow educators.  There is an important message there beyond the specific point.

Unfortunately – and truthfully – the District’s CFO Tarik Hamdan pointed out that there was no easy way to calculate the costs associated with additional compensation for those holding a Master’s degree since many staff stopped submitting credits after the step-and-lane advancements were frozen.  The commentary surrounding the discussion, however, — as did an earlier email from the Superintendent – indicates that the District is looking at modifications to the salary schedule to create some flexibility.  We raised a desire to “meet and confer” with the District on that same issue back in August and were rebuffed by their attorney.  It is our hope that the District will provide opportunities for serious input and feedback as they explore such modifications.

Finally, the School Board left some $400,000 unallocated.  That total is more than enough to provide an equitable level of compensation to those employees left out of Tuesday’s motion – in our case, Noon Hour Supervisors and Substitute Teachers – though not in time for the holidays, sadly.

So, stay tuned – to borrow the recently expressed position of our School Board President, “there is still hope.”  Just don’t forget what can happen if you both show up and speak the truth.