Do the right thing for Community Education

The same District 728 Community Education staff who stepped up into new roles after $300,000 was cut from the department’s budget two years ago deserves to have the Elk River Area School District step up for them now.

The $117,000 price tag may seem costly, but that’s only because the district admittedly dragged its feet when it came to paying its employees their fair share for the work that they did.

There are two main issues at play — one being pay equity and the other being increased workload and promotions. District 728 Community Education staff valiantly took on more work after the cuts, and there were already serious pay equity issues with how much District 728 Community Ed staff were being paid.

The mid-year correction was needed in November of 2009 after District 728 Community Education hit a wall after years of growth. That’s understandable. Thankfully, skilled employees were willing to step into new and more challenging roles to provide a seamless transition.

As a consumer of a variety of Community Education services and a close observer, I can’t say that I haven’t noticed any dip in services or programming.

It will cost about $67,000 to create the new salary schedule for this wage and benefits group, which includes about $5,000 in back pay and places the staff members on an appropriate salary schedule for being community education program coordinators. The biggest component of  the $67,000 is taking care of equity issues that arose from positions being undervalued. The range step coordinators used to be $37,740 for Step 1 to $46,410 for Step 6. The proposal to fix the pay equity issues starts it at $48,758 at Step 1 to $56,559 at Step 6.

The moral and ethical thing to do would be put the district’s initial plan back on the table. It addressed equity issues back to 2009, which translates into the $117,000 figure mentioned earlier in this column.

These people were promised they would be compensated, and I doubt they were told it would take a few years to get things ironed out. They should not be punished because the district took so long to correct a wrong.

It’s a wonderful thing to have such a vibrant Community Education component in our school district.  It’s important that the district does what it can to preserve that. Treating their employees like they would like to be treated is a good place to start. — Jim Boyle, editor