The Forest Lake School Board voted Feb. 16 on updates to employment terms and conditions for several positions throughout the district. Although all passed, not all votes were unanimous.
The evening began with a thank you from the president of the Forest Lake Association of Professional Office Personnel, Tracy Angelo.
“I want to thank the negotiation team for being fair and genuinely listening to our concerns,” she said. “With the financial limitations that are on our district at this time, we are very appreciative of the contract you have before you to vote on. My one additional request is that you reach out and say thank you to clerical staff members and thank them for a job well done. Thanks for your time and consideration on our contract.”
The first employment agreement up for discussion was that of the mechanics. The board voted in favor of an increase in the amount that the district contributes to the 403b retirement plan from $25,000 to $40,000, a $200 per year footwear allowance, a 1 percent wage increase, an increase in accrued vacation from 25 to 30 days, and a lead mechanic pay differential of $1.50 as opposed to the former $1.05. All board members voted in favor except Luke Odegaard. With few exceptions, he would continue the pattern throughout the evening.
“I have been consistently voting no on wage increases for the last year or so,” Odegaard said. “Simply put, we don’t have the money to spend on raises. The staff certainly deserves it 100 percent, and if the money was there I would vote yes every time, but the sad truth is that any salary benefit we give has to be offset with a cut.”
Next was a discussion regarding the employment terms and conditions for ice arena manager Mike Elam. All board members, save Odegaard, voted in favor of a salary increase to better align with similar positions within the school district, and that pay for performance be moved into salary.
“Mike has really helped us build programs out there and bring more money into the general fund,” Member Karen Morehead said. “I am happy to see that he is going to be given the position he deserves. It is an important part of the district to make sure that the ice arena brings in money.”
In the department coordinator category, four agreements were combined into one. Those included teaching and learning, special education, targeted services and family support advocate. The board voted to increase the salary for the last three positions listed to get them in line with the salary of the teaching and learning position. Pay for performance was also shifted into salary. One big reason for the increase in pay, and the reason that this yes vote was unanimous, is the fact that the positions have been tasked with a large number of extra responsibilities and, up to this point, their pay had not increased to reflect the extra work. Some of the added job tasks include summer school supervision of programming, extended school year supervision of programming, staff supervision, assistance with teacher evaluation, paraprofessional evaluations, and hiring, supervising and evaluating of district liaisons.
The board approved an increased district contribution to retirement benefits from $3,000 to $5,000 for the activities director position. A majority also voted for a pay increase to fall in line with that of a senior high assistant principal as opposed to a junior high assistant principal, as the activities director position is a seventh- to 12th-grade position.
“This is a critical position that we can take for granted because it has been done so well for so long,” said Rob Rapheal, board president. “We are very appreciative, and I am glad these changes reflect that.”
The only change to the employment terms and conditions for the employment and assessment coordinator was that the pay for performance was moved into the salary. The vote was unanimous.
The final objective of the evening was to ratify the 2016 to 2018 Forest Lake Association of Professional Office Personnel agreement. Changes included language stating that an employee would only be eligible for overtime if the hours were worked during the week. If an employee took eight hours of PTO on one day, it would not count toward overtime pay during that week. Another change was that an employee must work a scheduled shift before and after a paid holiday to get pay for that holiday. Vacation time also changed in that after 16 years of service, employees earn four weeks plus one day of vacation. Seventeen years of service would mean four weeks plus two days. That pattern continues until year 20, when the employee gets five full weeks. The contract was ratified by unanimous vote.