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The Lake News Online
  • Osage teachers to get raises, insurance escrow struggles

  • Classified and certified staff at the School of the Osage will get raises next year after the board of education approved a recommendation from Superintendent Brent Depeť Monday night.
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  • Classified and certified staff at the School of the Osage will get raises next year after the board of education approved a recommendation from Superintendent Brent Depeé Monday night.
    Depeé said an increase in the salary schedule steps for certified staff (teachers) will cost the district about $170,000 more next year, while the increase for classified staff (secretaries, cooks, janitors) will cost about $28,000 more.
    Depeé also said he will recommend an increase in base pay for starting teachers at the regular May board meeting.
    “We are committed to retaining our staff,” the superintendent said.
    Health escrow
    That news was tempered by continued struggles with the district’s health insurance escrow. The district is self-insured.
    Depeé said that as of Feb. 28, the health escrow account was about $373,000, which includes a $200,000 subsidy approved by the board in February. The balance was $348,000 a year ago.
    The district’s prescription program was changed about a year ago, and that has resulted in savings to the district.
    “There are some positive signs,” Depeé said. “We’ve seen some growth in the right direction.”
    The superintendent has met with staff members about salary and benefits issues, noting the meetings have been productive but more meetings are needed before recommendations are made to the board.
    “There are several things we can do,” he told the board. “We have the option of restructuring our program and making changes to meet our needs.”
    He is encouraged in the prescription numbers since changing the program last year. The district spent about $500,000 for staff prescriptions a year ago, and has spent only $228,000 to date this year with three months left in the budget year.
    “We’re on track to save about $200,000,” he said.
    Calendar
    The board is expected to approve a 2014-15 school calendar when it meets in special session Wednesday, March 26.
    A committee of faculty and administration has worked to develop a calendar that would have students starting the week before Labor Day and dismissing for the 2015 summer before Memorial Day.
    Five of the committee members outlined their recommendations, which include protecting President’s Day and Martin Luther King’s Birthday from being used as snow days next year. While teachers get those days off, some classified staff is required to work for snow removal and general maintenance.
    Two spring breaks are planned: Friday and Monday, March 13 and 16; and Thursday, Friday and Monday, April 2, 3 and 6. Snow days would be March 13 and 16, with the days in April protected so teachers and parents can make spring break travel plans.
    Page 2 of 2 - The committee is also recommending a break from tradition by eliminating the spring parent-teacher conferences. Parental participation is typically down in the spring, and the advent of email and the student portals on the school district’s website now offer quicker and more effective communication with parents.
    “Parents know long before spring parent-teacher conferences if there is an issue,” committee member Linda Rowland noted.
    Teachers are in constant contact with parents through social media and the website on a regular basis, and that has improved communication.
    “We don’t wait until parent-teacher conferences to alert parents that a student is struggling. That’s late in the year to make any adjustments that would help a student,” a committee member said.
    Eliminating spring P-T conferences would not reduce a parent’s contact with teachers. The committee is proposing some type of program or event that would bring parents to the various buildings, giving the opportunity for communication.

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