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School pay increases

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Mary Stroka, NLJ Reporter

Weston County School District No. 1 employees’ base pay increases for the 2024-25 school year will be less than $1,000 after the school board unanimously approved a $500 increase to the base pay for directors, administrators and certified staff at its April 24 meeting. Classified employees will receive a 25-cent increase for steps. A “step” is an increase given to staff members for each year they are employed in the district.

There will be a $1 per hour increase to the base for secretaries and paraprofessionals, regardless of whether paraprofessionals have a degree.

The district is also covering a 16% increase in medical insurance premiums for employees instead of passing the costs along and requiring staff members to pay their own premium increases.

Weston County School District No. 1’s business manager, Angela Holliday, said in an email on March 21 that the district pays 70% of insurance premiums, while employees pay the remaining portion. Ninety-six employees receive coverage through the district.

The current annualized premium is $1,676,604. Holliday said that premiums increased 16% for fiscal year 2024-25 and 13.5% for fiscal 2023-24. Whether the district passes the costs along to the employees “depends year to year on the budget,” according to Holliday.

At the meeting on April 24, Superintendent Brad LaCroix thanked the board for “doing what (they) can do at extremely difficult times” and thanked staff for their service. He said that the impact that staff members have on a child’s life through working with them every day reflects the value of their profession and that he wished the district could do more financially. He said that in creating the budget, which is an estimate with unknown variables, district leadership must be wise with taxpayers’ money. He said that the district’s spending priorities this year, along with paying staff, included ensuring that nobody went “backwards” and that the district retained programming for the students.

“Whether this is ultraconservative or not, I think it’s the best that we can do for those who work every day for kids,” he said.

On April 24, the board approved “lanes” for certified staff with intent to advance when completed. Certified staff can advance in salary, or “move lanes,” by continuing their education, Holliday explained in an email on April 26.

She also said that the salary and step changes will go into effect July 1 and that documentation of those changes will be completed by that date too.

The board did discuss and take action on a couple of specific positions as part of their larger deliberations over next year’s salary schedules.

In a 4-3 vote, which lacked a required fifth vote to have majority board support, the school board declined to approve hiring a full-time occupational therapist using the current OT budget and reallocated dollars within the special education budget. Treasurer Sean Crabtree abstained from voting, and Board Vice Chair Jason Jenkins was absent.

All funding for a third special education teacher will come from the special education budget, Holliday said in her April 26 email. The money is fronted with general fund dollars, which are reimbursed the following fiscal year by special education, according to Holliday.

The board approved a $2,000 increase for the nurse’s salary schedule. The district is currently hiring for the position. The board also agreed to continue funding a student resource officer.

School trustees will meet at 6 p.m. on May 6 with Megan Degenfelder, the state’s superintendent of public instruction, to discuss budgetary matters, as the district and the state are scuffling over nearly $200,000 in funding.

School Shorts

Notes from the April 24, 2024, meeting of Weston County School District No. 1

• Superintendent Brad LaCroix said that, after this summer, the district’s bookmobile will stop using Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief funding. LaCroix said that if the district is unable to find business donors to support the bookmobile, district administrators will ask the board to spend about $8,000 from the general fund.

• The district’s liability and property insurance will probably be increasing 21%, Mann-Tavegia said.

• The board approved the resignation of Greg Gregory, the district’s maintenance director.

• Beau Gregory, the district’s technology director, said that the district will be swapping every computer in the district over the summer. The district plans to buy 530 Windows devices, he said. Gregory said he is bidding shorter than he would like to because of supply chain issues and that the board will have a bid to vote on at its May 6 meeting.

• Mann-Tavegia said that she attended the Wyoming Department of Education’s online presentation of its digital education plan. The district “has a lot of work ahead” for crafting policies for the use of artificial intelligence in the classroom and encouraging digital literacy and digital citizenship, according to Mann-Tavegia.

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