April, May and June are busy months for local School Boards – budgets must be prepared for the upcoming school year along with all of the end of year activities. While the Red For Ed Walk Out movement affected just about all of the school districts in the Copper Corridor with school closures and half days, the Ray Unified School District Governing board had already voted to increase salary steps throughout the district even before the Governor signed the bill that will fund a 20% pay increase by 2020 for teachers.
Salary steps, or a district salary schedule is used to indicate when both the certified and classified staff have earned a pay increase based on years with the district and/or years of teaching experience and additional training or education completed. An example of this is when a first year teacher starts at entry level pay – once that teacher continues employment with the district, and continues to advance their education or training they then become eligible to move to the next salary step on the pay schedule. Another example is when a teacher is hired to work at a school district and has years of experience and additional education and certifications – the salary schedule allows administration to place the new hire on the appropriate step in the salary step schedule.
Over the past few years, many school districts throughout the State were not allowing movement on the salary schedule or offering any type of salary increases due to reduced funding for public education. The Ray Unified School District Governing Board held several study sessions in March and April to study the current budget and prepare for the 2018-19 Fiscal Year. On April 12, during its regular scheduled Board Meeting the board approved the 2019 Salary Schedule. The new pay schedule included a revision to the game management schedule which will add a five dollar increase per match or game for those who work games. During their regular meeting agenda the board also approved many other end of year housekeeping items including: the 2018-19 school calendar, approved the early pay off on a lease for the 2017 60 passenger school bus. They also approved the job description for the High School Principal and Athletic Director and they approved the step increases for the certified teaching staff. The Board also approved the hiring Jacob Harmon as the Business Manager following the termination of former business manager Amanda Kelley.
Kelley is currently under investigation by the Attorney General for misuse of public funds. At this time the Attorney General Office has no new information to report on the investigation into the allegations.
During the April 12th Meeting, the Board entered into Executive Session (This is a private session that can be held to discuss certain private matters such as personnel or other legal matters). According to board minutes posted on the Ray Unified School District website, the board entered Executive Session at 7:39 p.m. and returned to open session at 9:10 p.m. and following the Executive Session, the board voted to approve a seven percent salary increase for Rochelle Pacheco the Elementary School Principal and Special Education Director along with a 12.2% raise for Curt Cook the Chief Administrative Officer and JH/SH Principal and Athletic Director for the 2018-19 budget. A copy of the agenda could not be found on the district website to ensure that the public was properly noticed as to which positions were being discussed in Executive Session. The Open Meeting Law requires that the positions being discussed in an executive session be properly noticed to include the name of the person and or position being discussed.
Following the approval of the Red for Ed budget on May 3, 2018 by the Governor and State Legislature, The Ray School Board held several meetings following the April 12 meeting.
On April 24, another Special Meeting was held and another Executive Session was held to discuss Salaries. Minutes from the open session following the closed session showed that no action was taken regarding salaries or contract amendments. This agenda also did not disclose which salaries or positions were being discussed
The Board held another special board meeting on May 21, the agenda called for the board to approve the hiring of a High School Principal and a 5th Grade Elementary School Teacher. Consultants working for the District advised that the board should hire a Principal for the High School. During this meeting, a number of teachers from the elementary school presented a letter of no-confidence for Mr. Cook, due to the perception that teachers at the district will not be receiving additional raises based on the Red for Ed movement. In an email to Copper Basin News, Mr. Cook explained that he did not have a copy of the letter, but he did explain that he was committed to ensuring that all staff including classified, certified and administration were on the appropriate salary steps, regardless of the outcome of the Red For Ed Movement.
The board called a special meeting for May 23, 2018 but that meeting was cancelled due to lack of a quorum. A local board member, explained that the board was asked not to comment on the concerns from the teachers regarding the letter of no confidence until the board can meet to discuss the letter, when Board President Jay Wernett returns from a trip.
Most of the school districts throughout the state are just now starting to learn how much funding they will actually receive based on the Red for Ed funding increases. The Red For Ed funding allows the local governing boards to determine how the salary increases will be distributed. Two nearby districts are considering 10 percent increases across the board with hourly increased for classified staff.