District 518 talks raises, hiring and the difficulty of finding substitutes

Staff shortages, hiring difficulties and employment in general came up repeatedly throughout Tuesday's school board meeting.

District 518 brownhouse
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WORTHINGTON — District 518 will continue to use Teachers on Call, a staffing service that provides substitutes for the school, despite some questions about its usefulness, the District 518 Board of Education decided Tuesday.

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Eighteen teachers with the VIBE program, who do not work in District 518 buildings, will need to be put on leave or terminated.
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“At this point, I’ve talked to some administration… they don’t feel we’ve gotten the bang out of this project like we feel we should have, so I will not be supporting the extension of this (contract) tonight,” said Mike Harberts, school board member.

“Are we getting more substitutes since we have this?” asked Tom Prins, another school board member.

Superintendent John Landgaard answered no, but noted that the district probably wouldn’t get more substitutes if it stopped using Teachers on Call either, as subs have been difficult to find regardless.

Landgaard explained that the real benefit of using the service is that the substitutes aren’t District 518 employees, so the school does not have to track hours to find out if it would be required to offer them health insurance or benefits. If a substitute worked more than 30 hours in a week as a District 518 employee, the school would be required to offer them the opportunity for benefits.


Landgaard also pointed out that if Teachers on Call was no longer used, each school building would need to find its own subs again, meaning a significant amount of calling around for administrative staff.

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“I don’t think Teachers on Call is going to create more subs, but I don’t think going away from it is going to create more subs either,” said Brad Shaffer, board member, adding that he’d hate to dump more work on the administrative staff.

The new contract represented a 2% increase in cost from the previous year, meaning that as a staffing service, Teachers on Call would receive 30% rather than 28% of the funds paid to them.

The contract was approved with Harberts and Prins dissenting. Adam Blume was not present.

Staff shortages, hiring difficulties and employment in general came up during other parts of the meeting as well.

The district approved a number of salary and benefit increases for a number of positions.

  • 3.23% in 2022-23 and 3.17% in 2023-2024 for the attendance officer; 
  • 4.04% and 2.29% for the district accountant; 
  • 3.96% and 3.2% for the data base network specialists; 
  • 3.29% one-year increase for community education non-licensed coordinator for 2022-23; 
  • 4.09% and 3.35% for food service coordinator; 
  • 3.93% and 3.64% increase for the Secretarial Association of Worthington; 
  • 4.14% and 3.46% for food service staff;
  • 3.39% and 3.45% for technology management specialists; 
  • 4.49% and 3.17% for district administrative secretaries; 
  • 3.76% and 3.49% for the Custodial Association of Worthington; 
  • 4.08% and 3.21% for Worthington Administrators Association;
  • 3.34% and 3.23% for the parent liaisons/community connectors;
  • 11.10% and 3.31% for the director of operations, with adjustments based on job responsibilities, job rating and adjusted duties;
  • 3.86% and 3.56% for the activities director; and
  • 7.69% and 3.58% for the human resource coordinator, with adjustments based on job responsibilities, job rating and adjusted duties.

Landgaard noted that the district still has a significant amount of hiring to do, with positions available in all of its buildings. He also said three people have been hired in special education who are expected to graduate in December.

“Even the classroom positions, we’re not getting applicants, and when I talk to my colleagues around the area, they’re not getting applicants either.”

The superintendent informed the board that wage and benefit negotiations are still going on with District 518’s paraprofessionals. According to Landgaard, the paras have requested a 2.25% increase for the first year of the contract and a $2 per hour increase in the second, which he said was “over 5%.” District 518 had offered a 7.5% increase total over the two years.


The current wage range for paraprofessionals in District 518 is $16.06 to $18.01 for Class I paras and $16.46 to $18.36 for Class II paras, which includes all paras, from those paid the starting wage to those at the top of the pay scale.

In other news Tuesday, the board:

  • Agreed that more discussion would be needed about an unnamed company that hopes to donate between $300,000 and $400,000 to the district in exchange for naming rights. Initially the company had hoped to purchase a scoreboard, but as the District did not need one, Landgaard suggested donating toward either a baseball field or a soccer field, both of which the district has planned to build eventually anyway. The donation would likely not pay for the entire project, however, so the school board will need to decide whether to accept the funds and pay for some of the field on its own, or decline the donation. The board reached the consensus that Landgaard should continue to discuss the issue with the potential donor, and that more talk is needed.
  • Accepted donations from Boxtops for Education for Prairie Elementary, Optimists for flexible seating, WAMBO for a Triple A scholarship and an anonymous donor for the Worthington High School Dance Line Student Activity Club.
  • Approved tax abatements for KJSM Investments for properties on Cherrywood Lane and for JBS for six properties on East Avenue through the Nobles Home Initiative.
  • Approved a preliminary initial budget for the 2022-23 school year that includes $79.92 million in expenditures — a decrease from the $83.12 million budget from the previous school year.
  • Approved a three-year service agreement with Daktronics for $57,975 for parts and labor for all the scoreboards in District 518, except the one at its baseball field, which is more than 10 years old.
  • Agreed to meet with the watershed regarding a potential pond on District 518 property near the Intermediate School.
  • Agreed to discuss the fate of West Elementary at a future meeting.
  • Received a public comment from Rebecca McGaughey, who teaches seventh grade at Worthington Middle School. McGaughey praised the district’s paraprofessionals for their hard work and emphasized their importance within the district, calling them “a valuable gift to our district, to our teachers, and most importantly, to our students.”
A 1999 graduate of Jackson County Central and a 2003 graduate of Augsburg College, Kari Lucin started writing for newspapers in Minnesota and North Dakota in 2006. During her time as a reporter, she covered beats including education, watershed, county and agriculture, and frequently wrote about health and science. She has also served as an online content coordinator and an engagement specialist at various Forum Communications properties. She was a marketing assistant at Iowa Lakes Community College in Estherville for two years, where she did design work in addition to writing and social media management.

Lucin is currently a community editor with the Globe of Worthington.

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