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Support staff asks Pequot Lakes School Board for 'significant' raise

Staff has received 52 cents in pay increases over the past four years, elementary secretary Carrie Chiodi said.

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Pequot Lakes School District support staff members and their supporters attended the Pequot Lakes School Board meeting Monday, Aug. 15, 2022, in the high school auditorium to ask for increased wages.
Dan Determan / Echo Journal
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PEQUOT LAKES — The Pequot Lakes School Board began its August meeting by receiving public comments from members of Local 284 calling for "significant" wage increases for support staff.

Three Local 284 members – Eagle View Elementary School secretary Carrie Chiodi, paraprofessional China Harmala and attendance secretary Robin Olson – spoke on behalf of the district's cooks, clerks, nurses, custodians and paraprofessionals, calling for increases in wages that they said have remained stagnant for the past few years.

“We are among the lowest-paid school district employees in all of Minnesota, both in wages and insurance benefits,” Chiodi said. “We are comparing (our wages to) Brainerd, Pine River-Backus and Little Falls – not Wayzata or Edina.”

Chiodi said the staff has seen an increase of 26 cents per hour over the past two years – this after receiving no increases the two years prior.

“We love our students, we love our jobs and we are asking to be compensated accordingly,” Harmala said.

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The final speaker was Education Minnesota-Pequot Lakes President Angie Klein, who said the organization fully supports pay increases for support staff.

“The teachers of this district know that our jobs are dependent upon the work of our paras, secretaries, kitchen staff and custodians,” Klein said. “Our support staff is an important part of our school culture … The teachers could not do their jobs without these valuable members of our school community.”

Negotiations between the school district and Local 284 are ongoing. In his statements to the board, Superintendent Kurt Stumpf said there was some agreement on the language items presented by the district and union, but the district costed the union’s 19 different areas for financial increases, which was an increase of over 50% for one year (roughly $1.5 million).

The union asked for mediation, the first session of which is scheduled for Tuesday, Aug. 23, and will be closed to the public.

"These staff members are vital to the education of our students," Stumpf said. "The staff members in this union consistently go above and beyond to ensure each student has a positive experience."

Also in its Monday, Aug. 15, meeting, the board unanimously voted to authorize board chair Susan Mathison-Young and clerk Tracy Wallin to sign a license agreement between the school district and the city of Pequot Lakes to use public right of way pertaining to Olson Street, which runs in front of the middle school and high school.

Following the decision, the board approved the expenditure of up to $31,000 for improvements to Olson Street.

"Parking is a big issue, whether you are talking during the school day and some after-school activities as well, but especially when you talk about our students and staff having safe parking that is close to our school," Stumpf said. "This $31,000 is the maximum. We did receive a quote from a company that was a little over 30,000 but that included some things that we probably won't have.”

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Stumpf said the plan is for parallel parking to continue on the west side of Olson Street, but paving over the grassy patch on the east side of the street to expand the nearby parking lot.

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In other action, the board:

  • Approved the addition of an elementary school teaching position for the coming school year, if necessary. The position would be for a fourth grade teacher, as enrollment figures indicate fourth grade would be at exactly 27 students per classroom.
  • Declined to take action on a motion that would increase the district’s substitute employee rates to $140 per day for substitute teachers and $14 per hour for substitute nonlicensed staff, such as food service, custodians and paraprofessionals.
  • Increased district lunch prices for adults to $4.95, as required by the Minnesota Department of Education.

“MDE came out with this at the end of July and said every school district in the state is mandated to have this as its lowest price,” Stumpf said. “We don’t have any say in this, and we have to just go along with MDE because we receive federal funds.”

  • Accepted six donations to the district totaling $6,771.09, along with two donations to the student activity fund account totaling $687.15.

As a part of its consent agenda, the board accepted the resignations of assistant cross-country coach Melissa Chaney, Kid Konnection paraprofessional Melissa Perrine, Knowledge Bowl coach Anthony Mauer and assistant volleyball coach Madison Stall.
It also approved the hiring of assistant cross-country and girls track coach Clayton Foster, assistant volleyball coach Kendra Johnson, “C” level girls basketball and softball coach Mackenzie Nelson, Director of Teaching and Learning Travis Raske, high school secretary Tiffany Montgomery, middle-level volleyball coach Bailey Marshall and ninth-grade volleyball coach Madison Stall.

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Pequot Lakes School. PineandLakes Echo Journal file photo

Dan Determan, sports writer/staff writer, may be reached at 218-855-5879 or dan.determan@pineandlakes.com. Follow him on Facebook and on Twitter at www.twitter.com/@PEJ_Dan.

Dan Determan has been a reporter for the Echo Journal since 2014, primarily covering sports at Pequot Lakes and Pine River-Backus
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