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School Committee Prepares For Negotiations

In preparation for the start of negotiations with the Wolf Point Education Association, the school board’s negotiations committee held a meeting with superintendent Loverty Erickson and district clerk Cheri’ Nygard on Monday, Nov. 29.

Nygard explained simply moving teachers to the next step on the salary schedule would cost the school district about $66,000 for next year’s budget.

She asked trustees what information that they would like her to have available in preparation for upcoming meetings.

Erickson said the current teaching staff total of 75 teachers is the most in several years. Approximate figures are 193 students and 23 teachers/counselors at Southside Elementary School, 163 students and 21 teachers/counselors at Northside Elementary School, 120 students and 13 teachers/counselors at the junior high and 221 students and 28 teachers/counselors at the high school.

In order to become eligible for a COVID-related state grant, newer teachers were placed at level 2 for a base salary of $33,000 this school year. Teachers officially work 164 days each school year.

School officials explained that a common complaint heard is that there is too much money in the reserves fund that could instead be used for teaching salaries. Wolf Point usually puts $2 million from Impact Aid into reserves each year. Those funds are kept in case of building emergencies.

“We have a lot of old buildings,” trustee Lanette Clark said.

One possibility is building a new elementary school to replace Southside in a few years.

Once negotiations begin in January, one challenge for participants might be finding ways to increase the base salary.

Trustee Linda L. Hansen mentioned paying for moving costs or a signing bonus to new teachers.

“What are they worth? They could be priceless. And what can we afford?” trustee Mark Zilkoski of attracting and keeping teachers.

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