The Fairfield school board approved administrative salaries, reviewed enrollment figures, hired additional staff and determined the best course of action in assisting the Teton County Health Department regarding notifications for COVID-19 cases during the Sept. 20 board meeting.
The board approved two-year contracts for Superintendent Dustin Gordon and Early Kindergarden-12 Principal Courtney Bake. The salary packages for the administrators came as a seconded motion from the negotiations committee.
Board Chairman Chris Christensen explained the committee used several resources in determining the salary package for the administrators. They were based off the negotiated package of the certified and classified staff recently completed and from information gathered by Gordon from regional Class B and C schools listing the salary scale for each of their administrators, certified and classified. “This information provided the negotiation committee an opportunity to see where Fairfield’s salary and benefit package compares to others in the region,” Christensen said.
“Contracts for last year were somewhat arbitrary,” said Christensen. “We now have data from the surrounding districts and our total administrative costs will still be the second lowest between the nine PK-12 Districts surveyed,” he added. Individually the contracts for the administrators rank about middle of the pack for those districts.
Taking the overall dollar amount spent for administrators throughout the region, Fairfield is close to the bottom compared to other regional schools after the approval of the two-year contract and are now about the middle of the road with their individual contacts.
The negotiation committee elected to pay the two administrators the same daily rate as a certified staff member with a master’s degree plus one, 25-year daily rate. To determine the pay, the committee multiplied that dollar amount by the number of days each of the administrators contracts. For Bake that would be 212 days and Gordon that would be 260 days.
This increases Bake’s salary to $83,413.52 for 2021-2022 and $84,038.92 for 2022-2023. Her salary last year was $78,000. They also negotiated in a memorandum of understanding that the district will recognize her years of service as Bake had worked for the district for several years, moved away for a couple and was rehired and has worked here since.
Using the same formula, the salary for Gordon increased to $102,299 for the 2021-2022 school year and $103,066 for the second year. Gordon’s salary for last year was $98,000.
Gordon asked the board to take the salary increase as a bonus stipend similar to the teaching staff this year, using the district’s multidistrict agreement and federal ESSER savings in the general fund. (ESSER is the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund established by the federal government.)
It was noted the district is still spending $5,697 less on salaries and over $13,000 less in benefits than two years ago when the district had three administrators. This dollar amount also includes the stipend paid to Loren Tacke as an administrative assistant for the junior high school.
The board also approved a 3% raise for a salary of $55,617 for District Clerk Denise Grant which was consistent with what classified staff negotiated. All previous contract language would be the same. They also approved an additional $600 stipend, “for additional duties as a result of COVID performed this last year with lots of additional work for ESSER.”
Under other action, the board agreed to rescind the tabled motion from the August meeting which stated the district would not send out (email) notices regarding COVID-19 quarantine for the Teton County Health Department to students/parents. The motion stemmed from some board members having a concern that the district on occasion last school year forwarded notices provided by County Health Department to students/families for contract tracing, given it was often time sensitive. Board members believed it was the county department’s responsibility, and not the school district’s.
Taking into consideration the information the board received regarding the issue over the past month from Superintendent Gordon via email, including where the board stood legally on releasing information and the discussion at the meeting, they agreed no motion was needed instead to provide a directive for the administration of how to handle notices in the future.
Both the administration and board members agreed the best course of action was to have all correspondence from the Teton County Health Department related to COVID-19 quarantining come directly from that office. The school district will provide the necessary information such as names, addresses (either physical or email) for the students for the TCHD to contact.
Following the discussion it was noted the board doesn’t often disagree on an issue such as this motion. They didn’t see this as a negative but said from time to time, there are issues they will need to discuss and there will be different viewpoints to consider. They agreed tabling the motion until more information could be presented was a positive move and made it easier for a resolution in the end.
The fall enrollment reported at the meeting shows the overall student count at 329, up nine from last year’s enrollment. There are 166 students in the early kindergarten through sixth grade, 41 in the seventh and eighth grade and 121 in the high school. Last year there were 155 in the EK-sixth grade, 33 in the junior high and 123 in the high school. Included in the total are students in the distance-learning program. There were nine students enrolled in the program last year and only one this year.
Superintendent Gordon updated the board on COVID-19 related matters, stating the district has been fortunate to maintain all classes without having to go to remote learning at this time. However, following the board meeting, the school reported on the district’s Facebook page on Sept. 23 there was a student or staff member in the early kindergarten that had tested positive for the COVID-19 virus and been confirmed by the Teton County Health Department. Due to exposure and in accordance with Fairfield School’s Stay in School Plan, they shifted the impacted class to remote learning on Sept. 24.
Gordon related to the board the administration recommends no any changes in the requirements to wear masks at this time. He noted none of the Fairfield sports teams have had to cancel games due to illness but there have been a few games canceled due to the other school being unable to field a team.
There were five community members in attendance at the meeting and all indicated they were most interested in the recommended changes being made to masking.
Prior to the meeting, the policy committee met and considered changes to a long list of policies. Gordon explained most were either housekeeping changes or recommended changes following the recent legislative session. The policy committee made it through a majority of the list. Even though the policy could be approved on one reading, they agreed to vote for final approval at the October meeting allow for more time to review.
Under action items, the board:
•Approved the list of students participating in the early kindergarten program and student attendance agreements.
•Approved hiring Megan Helmer, Kelli Hershey and Christoph Lawton as paraprofessionals and Matthew Berglund as a part-time janitor.