DPS board approves 4 funding priorities
Dickinson Public Schools board members approved several new funding incentives for the coming school years, ones they say will help meet the district's ever-changing needs.
Dickinson Public Schools board members approved several new funding incentives for the coming school years, ones they say will help meet the district’s ever-changing needs.
Representatives of the district’s budget committee presented a list of 13 recommended funding priorities at Monday’s regular board meeting, including math and reading coaches, another school resource officer and special education teachers. In the list, compiled based on scores given by the district’s cabinet, the committee highlighted four top funding priorities in need of board approval: school psychologist, activities supervisor, elementary day treatment and counselor/social worker.
"The cabinet and the central administration office have been taking a look at the - as we did last year - the needs assessment in the school district, in trying to position the school district for the future and trying to address the growth that we continue to experience in our school buildings," Superintendent Doug Sullivan said.
The district already employs a district-wide school psychologist, Sullivan said of the highest-ranked priority, but given the number of enrolled students - 3,443 as of a Jan. 1 count - psychologist services are "very low" compared to other districts.
Keep in mind the fact that in the last five years, six years, we’ve added about 960 students to our district," Sullivan said. "And with those students comes a commensurate proportion of students with disabilities."
Certified school psychologist Jillene Susag must attend each of those students’ educational evaluations, Sullivan said, leaving her no time to provide counseling services.
"She’s too busy keeping up with paperwork," he said.
The position may be able to provide intervention or counseling services to students. A basic job posting for the position is listed on the district’s website and board president Kris Fehr said the district should advertise for the new school psychologist.
Details for the three other funding priorities are still under discussion, particularly regarding an elementary day treatment program to provide additional services for what Sullivan called "some of our more challenging students" in kindergarten through sixth grade.
"It is not something we think could be operational by the start of next school year," he said. "It’s more complex than that."
Board approves salary package for classified employees
The board also approved a 2015-16 salary and benefit package for classified staff, which includes an 11 percent raise over last year’s numbers.
The lowest hourly wage, applicable to student workers, begins at $7.25 and moves up the scale to a maximum of $28.90 for Category I employees, including educational interpreter, head maintenance at Dickinson High School and transportation coordinator.
Assistant Superintendent Vince Reep said the new salary package represents a total of $562,000 in increases for existing employees.
"We know it’s aggressive," he said, "but we also understand the aggressive nature of our workforce in western North Dakota."
Board member Leslie Ross, who also sits on the district’s budget committee, called the salary increase a "bold move," noting that it has always been the board’s position to make classified salaries competitive against other districts.
Still, she said as aggressive as the package is, with the lowest-paid classified employee earning between $13.40 and $14.90 per hour, "we’re still low" compared to general wages around the region.
Heidi Schostek, a paraprofessional with the district, told the board that many classified employees "have to have two jobs just to be barely able to make ends meet."
Citing a high turnover rate among starting employees, she questioned whether the salary schedule will maintain current and future employees.
Sullivan accepts 3-year contract
Superintendent Doug Sullivan accepted a new contract with the district to extend his position another three years, through June of 2018.
Sullivan, who joined the district in 2009, will receive a 4 percent increase in salary for the first year, followed by a 3.5 percent raise in each of the next two years of the contract
He will receive $184,411 in the coming year, and $197,545 by the final year. Board president Kris Fehr said the salaries are competitive with those of similar school districts.
"We’re right in where we need to be," she said. "We have a very experienced superintendent."
Faulx is a reporter with The Press. Contact her at 701-456-1207