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3:49 AM Sun, Oct. 21st

HUSD still seeks ways to pay teachers

The Humboldt Unified School District school board tabled a decision on Proposition 301 money dissemination and pay raises for teachers and classified staff at Tuesday night's board meeting, but the delay holds high promise to deliver teachers much of the pay raise they are seeking.

"We're not done with the numbers yet," board President Craig Sorenson told the full house of HUSD employees at the meeting. "We intend to make a decision to place us head and shoulders above everybody in the immediate area."

The announcement received resounding applause from the district employees who, in a repeat of last week's board meeting, again filled the BMHS library in a show of solidarity.

Without being specific, Sorenson indicated that the board intends to raise annual base salaries by about $2,000 with Prop. 301 money, and hinted that teachers will get at least a significant portion of the additional $2,450 pay raise they demanded at the April 10 board meeting.

Board member John Beck told the district employees that, because of past problems in the district business office, the board still doesn't know how much money is available for raising salaries.

"When we don't know what we have, we don't know where we can go," he said.

Sorenson said the board wants to study the district's budget for another two weeks before voting on the matter.

"We're just not there yet," he said.

Enthusiastic applause from the district employees clearly showed their consent to wait another two weeks.

Last week, teachers packed the meeting in the BMHS library to demand nearly 10 times the $250 pay raise the district administration recommended. Teachers want the $2,450 above and beyond the roughly $2,215 raise provided by Prop. 301, and a variable "performance pay" bonus of $480,000 for 325 teachers.

The teachers' $2,450 would cut nearly $800,000 from the district's $19 million maintenance & operations budget, which the administration says it cannot afford. Prop. 301 money is separate from the M&O budget.

Classified staff members – non-teachers working in the school district – are also asking for a pay raise. The staff committee working on the pay increase proposal recommended a 10 percent raise for those with less than three years in the district; 15 percent for those with three to five years; and 20 percent for those over six years. The staff estimated cost to the district at about $490,000.

A second option requests a $1.25 per hour raise for all classified staff, at an estimated cost of $530,000.

The administration recommended that the school board disapprove both requests and instead award a 10 percent pay raise for all classified employees, at a cost of about $600,000. While that amount exceeds the staff's estimates for their own suggestions, district secretary Barb Simington, who worked on the committee, said that kind of disparity is not unusual.

"We counted the employees, subtracted 15 percent for benefits, and figured the increase," she said. "I don't know how they did their numbers."

The administration also recommended disapproval of an additional six holidays, instead offering an extra day at Christmas and at New Year's.

Classified staff asked for temporary assignment pay for situations when an employee must take on extra tasks for another employee due to illness or vacancy.

"For example, a school secretary resigns midyear and the administrator has another office person assume the secretary duties until a new secretary can be hired," the staff recommendation reads. "The office person required to assume those duties should be paid at the school secretary rate of pay for as long as they are covering that position."

The administration, without explanatory comment, recommended that the school board disapprove the request.

Contact Art Merrill at amerrill@prescottaz.com