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School board approves salary increases for teachers

WORTHINGTON -- The District 518 Board of Education approved salary increases for teachers and other positions Tuesday despite one board member's protest -- not over the amount, but over the method for determining the salary amount.

"I feel it's not equitable," said Linden Olsen, a 7-year board member who voted against the salary changes. "I don't think people realize how it affects individuals because it's always given as an average."

Olson had no quarrel with the amount of money the raises would cost the district, but noted that the salary gap between the highest-paid teachers and the lowest-paid teachers had increased by nearly $5,000 since the 2001-2002 school year. In that year, the gap between the lowest and highest earners was $15,531. Now that same gap is $20,305, Olson explained.

The gap exists because the school offers raises based on percentages of base salary rather than dollar amounts. The same percentage increase could represent a $537 raise for one person but only a $351 raise for someone else, Olson said.

Olson would prefer to sometimes base raises on percentages, but also sometimes offer raises in dollar amounts instead, to help ease the widening salary gap. Should the gap continue to widen, Olson said, it will become more and more difficult for the district to attract new teachers.

Though all the other board members voted in support of the negotiated, percentage-based salary increases, Olson's words found resonance among them.

"In the future I would like to see us move to a different model," said Mark Shepherd, another board member.

Brad Shaffer, chairman, noted the board would not be able to change something like that on its own, because the salaries were negotiated with the teachers' union, not independently decided by the board.

"There's going to have to be a culture change in the future" if the board wanted to make those changes, Shaffer said.

"If (the teachers' association) thought this was an issue, they'd have brought it to the table, I assume," said Joel Lorenz, board member. "They voted for it, so I will vote for it, this time."

District 518 utilizes a 12-step system of salary increases, with teachers advancing along the schedule on a yearly basis. New teachers do not necessarily begin at step one, but may begin at a higher level based on education or previous experience, explained District 518 Superintendent John Landgaard.

This year, the salary and benefit increase for educators in the Education Minnesota Worthington Association -- the local teachers' union -- was 2.8 percent for the 2011-2012 school year and 2.86 percent for the 2012-2013 school year.

The board also approved salary and benefits increases for the attendance officer of 2.01 percent for the 2011-2012 school year and 1.98 percent for the 2012-2013 school year; for the activities coordinator of 2.83 percent in 2011-2012 and 2.83 percent in 2012-2013; for the community education director of 2 percent in the 2011-2012 school year.

All increases include salary plus all benefits packages.

In other news Tuesday, the board:

* Approved the resignations of Allison Birkey as program assistant with the EDGE program, Heather Flynn as Worthington Middle School volleyball coach and Elizabeth Dahlheimer as WMS volleyball coach.

In addition, assignments were reduced by .16 full-time equivalent for Sandy Randall as school age care leader with Community Education, by .16 FTE for Marilyn Samp as paraprofessional with ECFE, by .15 FTE for Esmeralda Salas as paraprofessional with ECFE and by .13 FTE by Ana Casillas as paraprofessional with ECFE.

* Approved the employment of Benjamin Green as Middle Level teacher at the Area Learning Center, Tierny Zwijack as math/academy teacher at the ALC, Anne Raetz as English language arts teacher at the ALC, Tonisha Miller as special education teacher at Prairie Elementary, Katie Titus-Schmahl as special education teacher WMS, Kelly Moon as ELL teacher at WMS and Keri Statema as special education teacher at WMS.

The assignment of Trudy Henry, a paraprofessional at Prairie Elementary, was increased by .25 FTE.

* Approved donations from the Trojan Sports Booster Club for baseball, golf, softball and track, from General Mills box tops for education for Prairie Elementary and from Prairie Parent Group for A/R quiz.

* Approved staff for the 2011 extended school year, including Pat Henkels as cooking program teacher, Stacy Huisman as gym program assistant, Jeff Linder as gym teacher, Vicki Dean as cooking program assistant, Barb Adams as program assistant, Karen Stamer as program assistant, Tom Bruns as art-graphic design teacher, Rhonda Fueston as art program teacher, Matt Gaudian as art program teacher and Denae Besel as music program teacher.

* Approved the purchase of a used piano for $2,500.

* Placed some employees on unrequested leave of absences due to financial reasons and lack of funding.

Teachers from Community Education were Randine Smith, ABE teacher, Pilar Hartshorn as ECFE teacher-parent liaison, Lori Morrow as ECFE teacher, Shelly Morrow as ECFE teacher, Kari Voss Drost as ECFE teacher and Dorothy Orde as ABE teacher.

Jennalee Morales, a Spanish teacher at Prairie Elementary, was also placed on an unrequested leave of absence.

* Approved the nonrenewal of probationary teaching contracts for Margarita Muniz, a Spanish teacher at Prairie Elementary, and Randi Mimick, a special education teacher at Prairie.

* Approved the second reading of Policy 700, Fiscal Management Goals, and Policy 714, Fund Balances.

* Recognized newly tenured teachers and administrators Nate Hanson at the Area Learning Center; Tessa Dierks, Gillian Singler, Brad Grimmius and David Rezny at Worthington High School; Heather Flynn and Cory Smidt at Worthington Middle School; Stephanie Fletcher, Jason Grovom, Barb King, Tasha Raymo and Valerie Rossow at Prairie Elementary.

* Approved the addition of one full-time equivalent special education teaching position for Prairie Elementary.

* Approved a new floor for gymnastics, the cost of which is not to exceed $25,000.

* Accepted a bid from FLR Sanders for $82,440 for a new floor for the Worthington High School gym, with an additional $5,000 for extra painting.

* Agreed to continue with the tennis court project and seek additional funding sources.