By LORAE VARDAS
Teachers in the Pierz School District settled on a new two-year contract. The Pierz School Board put its stamp of approval on the contract without much discussion at the March 26 meeting. The salary schedule alone gives certified staff a 1.5 percent increase in 2013-2014 and an additional 2 percent increase in 2014-2015.
The total salary package over the two-year life of the contract (excluding insurance) comes to 8.37 percent when TRA, steps, lanes and FICA costs are factored in. That translates into an average dollar increase of $2,782 per teacher (4.17 percent) in Year 1 and an average dollar increase of $2,916 per teacher (4.20 percent) in Year 2.
Certified staff also saw an increase in health insurance benefits. The annual district contribution in Year 1 is $7,008 or $584 per month. The annual district contribution in Year 2 will be $7,572 or $631 per month.
Also approved Wednesday evening was a two-year contract with the district’s bus drivers. An hourly increase of 25 cents was added to student routes for each of the 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 years retroactive to the first student day. Included are special education, preschool and after school activity routes. The current rate for route drivers is $14.75 per hour.
Besides negotiating contracts with various school groups, administrators are busy designing a new teacher evaluation plan, figuring out the World’s Best Workforce legislative mandate and integrating more technology into the education system, said Supt. George Weber. In addition, a lot of time is being spent making sure that the proposed eight-period day will work for Healy High students.
“We want to prove that it’s better (than the current block model) and that it increases student achievement. We didn’t want to lose courses, so we didn’t go with the seven-hour day,” said the superintendent. “The conflicts are not as glaring as the advantages,” he said in response to a question from Board member Mike Wilson regarding the pros and cons of such a change. Wilson recalled the public meetings that were held prior to instituting the block schedule years ago. At the time, there was teacher opposition and parental concern.
The topic was among the items for discussion at the March 28 teacher workshop. Also at that time, Supt. Weber planned on introducing the faculty to the district’s strategic plan for the World’s Best Workforce based on best practices and effective schools research.
Weber was pleased to report that the tax cut bill passed by the Legislature and signed by the Governor will mean more state aid for Minnesota schools than formerly anticipated. “This will go into effect in 2015 for the 2015-2016 school year,” Weber said. “It is a significant enough impact that we will need to revisit our original plans for a voter approved levy (referendum) and we might even consider modifying the questions we would have asked of the voters.” He suggested a special meeting to rework the data since the previous financial information is no longer valid.
Pierz School Board Briefs:
In other action at the March 26 meeting, the Pierz School Board:
• Added two student contact makeup days to the 2013-2014 school calendar due to recent inclement weather. May 30 will be a full-day instead of a half-day; June 2 was added as a full-day, and June 3 as a half-day. Seniors will not be coming back after the May 30 graduation;
• Made changes in the honors student and class ranking policy to allow for the rigor of college credit courses versus vocational or regular high school classes. “We made changes so it doesn’t force students to take courses they don’t need to be ranked,” explained Principal Karrie Boser;
• Approved 22 Spring coaching assignments including head coaches Craig Johnshoy, track; Rachel Werk, softball; Dan Saehr, baseball; Jessica LeBlanc, girls golf; Chris Dobis, boys golf; and Luke Hoskins, clay target;
• Engaged the services of Kern, DeWenter, Viere, Ltd to conduct the district audits for the year ending June 30, 2014 at an estimated cost of $13,950 plus $1,750 for additional work. That is the same fee as the past two years, according to Business Manager Earl Athman;
• Hired Trusted Employees to do the employee criminal background checks for school district personnel, including volunteers. For the safety of students Trusted Employees has a wider reach and can follow people across state lines;
• Entered into a contract with Larson Engineering at a cost of $5,600 for engineering services and to prepare specifications for resurfacing the high school track;
• Congratulated Melanie Novak and Chris Ortman, the two Pierz Healy High graduates being honored April 9 by the National Joint Powers Alliance (NJPA) at Grand View Lodge. NJPA is the local service cooperative serving schools, cities and counties in Region 5;
• Accepted donations of $4,300 for Special Education from Farmers and Merchants State Bank, and $250 for Business Professionals of America from the Pierz Lions;
• Received retirement requests from two longtime employees. Darlene Rocheleau, education assistant, is leaving after the last day of school in June. Business Manager Earl Athman is retiring effective June 30 after 29 plus years in Pierz; and
• Met St. Cloud Police Officer Tom Justin, a Royalton resident and current school board member, who is running for Morrison County Sheriff.
The next regular meeting of the Pierz School Board is scheduled for Wednesday, April 30, at 6 p.m. in the Healy High Board Room.