After nearly two years of working to find a solution to the teachers’ pay schedule, Monday night’s vote by the Webster Parish School Board, put that solution back to square one.
Following a finance committee workshop and much discussion, a motion was made by Board Member Frankie Mitchell, District 9, seconded by Ronnie Broughton, District 8, to freeze pay for another two years. A substitute motion by Board Member John Madden, District 6, to freeze pay but leave the timeframe open passed by a unanimous vote. Also in Madden’s motion was to open it up to the possibility of stipends when funds become available.
Webster Association of Educators President Jim Croad said they could not support the compromise without unfreezing the pay.
“With the reduction of funds being allocated to the districts from the state, it came as no surprise to us that the board would choose to extend the pay freeze for a seventh year,” he said. “However, what came as a disappointment was that there continued to be no call to make a concrete plan of action to seek out and evaluate other options to make funds available within the parish. As much as this issue seems on the surface to be about paychecks, it is sadly our students who will suffer when their experienced educators leave to be paid for that experience and are replaced with novices who may or may not be certified.”
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Dan Rawls said his job is to put the students first. As much as he wants to unfreeze pay, his obligation is to fund the programs the state mandates they implement, he said. He said they just learned the Early Childhood Education program and the Jumpstart program will not be funded this coming school year, which means central office staff has to figure out how to pay for it.
“We still have the rest of this quarter and another quarter to finish out before we know how much we’re going to have,” he said. “From where I’m sitting, the number of programs that have been cut, I’ve got a two-page list of programs that have been cut. That money’s got to come from someplace.”
Benefits are also increasing again this coming year as well, he said.
Croad said they all understand the cuts that have been made by the state and his goal remains to work with the board to come to a solution that will work for everyone.
“Our parish cannot simply wait for those funds to be restored,” he said in a statement to the board. “We must actively search for ways to ensure that our education employees are paid a wage that lives up to what they were promised upon hire and encourages recruitment and retention of the type of educators our students deserve.”
Mitchell said the board has a responsibility to protect its finances.
“I don’t feel good about raising something if we can’t fulfill it over a long period of time,” she said. “I ask that you be patient…I wouldn’t feel good if this were to put us in a financial bind.”
In other news, the school board approved:
Title I 2017-18 Webster Parish Parental Involvement in Education Policy and Grievance Policies
Title I 2017-18 Webster Parish Homeless Policies and Procedures
2017-18 district calendar
Allen, Green and Williamson LLP to perform audits – overall audit, statewide agreed-upon procedures, agreed upon procedures performance and statistical data and student activity funds – for 2017, 2018 and 2019
Yeager, Watson and Associates to renovate restrooms at Brown Upper Elementary School, advertise for bids and accept the bids by May 22
Executone of Louisiana to furnish and reconnect DuKane intercom and bell system at North Webster Jr. High School for $2,580 using the Sarepta Maintenance Fund
Wilhite Electric Co. for emergency work at the Lakeside School baseball field’s electrical pole, for $3,000 using Consolidated 3 Maintenance fund
Quality Court Industries to resurface the track field at Lakeside for $22,362
The purchase of 14 new projectors for Lakeside for $5,924
Payment of $4,182 to Horizon Mechanical for emergency work during the holidays at Webster Jr. High School, using District 6 half-cent sales tax
Permission to advertise for bids on tree removal and cleanup project at North Webster Lower Elementary.