The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s coordinators and assistant superintendent will get raises following unanimous approval by board of education members during a Monday meeting. The vote came more than four hours after the meeting began and in the wake of testimony from teachers, community members and union leadership that the district’s certified and support staff deserve to be paid more.
Prior to their regular meeting Monday, members of the KPBSD Board of Education called a special meeting during which they went immediately into executive session to discuss salary schedules up for a vote later that night. Up for consideration by the board during its Monday meeting were changes to salaries for certain district employees including the assistant superintendent and district coordinators.
The board’s regular meeting was scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday. At around 4:30 p.m. Monday, board members convened a separate special meeting, during which they immediately went into a private executive session to discuss “salary schedule action items on tonight’s meeting agenda.” The salary schedule action items on the agenda for Monday’s regular meeting were not listed as executive session items.
Executive sessions are closed to the public and are intended to discuss sensitive items like those defined in Alaska statute. The call for Monday’s executive session in BoardDocs refers to matters “the immediate knowledge of which would clearly have an adverse effect on the finances of the district.”
Per KPBSD policy, notice of a special meeting such as those called Monday must be provided “at least 24 hours before the meeting.” That notice must include a statement of why the special meeting is necessary. Emergency special meetings can be held, but the board president is required to notify local media in advance, per board policy.
Up for consideration by board members Monday were raises for certain district staff, including a 10% raise for Assistant Superintendent Kari Dendurent. The board similarly approved 11.38% raises for the district’s eight director positions in April. Salaries would then increase by 1% in fiscal year 2023 and by 2% in fiscal year 2024.
Starting salaries for directors jumped from about $114,000 in fiscal year 2021 to about $127,000 in fiscal year 2022 under the changes approved by the board of education in April. Starting salaries for the assistant superintendent jumped from about $125,000 in fiscal year in 2021 to about $138,500 in fiscal year 2022 under changes approved by the board of education Monday.
KPBSD Communications Director Pegge Erkeneff said Friday that the raises have been in the works for a while and are meant to more accurately reflect the work done by directors and the assistant superintendent. The salary increases are also meant to make district office positions more desirable for senior school staff looking to move up and have been in the works for a while.
Erkeneff also noted that the responsibilities of former Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Support Dave Jones were redistributed among other district leadership and the assistant superintendent when he left the district at the end of the 2020-2021 school year.
KPBSD Superintendent Clayton Holland echoed those comments during Monday’s regular board meeting and said he knows it is not a popular move.
“I understand how that looks,” Holland said of the salary adjustments. “I understand why that was avoided for years, even though it was acknowledged as being a problem. It’s a correction that needed to happen to put us in line with other places.”
Nathan Erfurth is the president of the Kenai Peninsula Education Association, the union that represents the district’s certified staff. He criticized the salary increases last Friday, saying that teachers and support staff have consistently asked for more compensation this school year but have not received it.
In response to the district’s assertion that the increase in the assistant superintendent’s pay was meant to reflect the additional work taken on after Jones’ position was consolidated, Erfurth said that director raises were given to all directors, not just ones that took over some of Jones’ responsibility.
“Honestly I’m just stunned by it,” Erfurth said, adding that educators and support staff also took on additional responsibilities this year.
Multiple people who testified at the board’s regular meeting Monday advocated for higher pay for teachers.
Winter Marshall-Allen, a special education teacher of individuals with intensive needs at Homer High School, said she recently learned about the “incredible” raises for administration. Those raises, she said, do not, “necessarily reflect the need or the appreciation for the staff on the front lines.”
Soldotna High School Librarian Tamra Wear said she felt that the numbers as presented in documents in BoardDocs were “sketchy” because they do not show how fiscal year 2022 salaries compare to the previous fiscal year, where the biggest percent change is seen.
“Having to dig for that FY21 information and then not having the clear numerical change on this salary schedule seems a bit sketchy,” Wear said. “ … If it was something you felt really strongly about, then I think transparency from the beginning would have been the best way to go.”
Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly member Cindy Ecklund said she did not support the action item and would not support raises for coordinators and for the assistant superintendent.
“Until we can raise the starting salary to what it takes to live on the Kenai Peninsula Borough, I would like these people to waive these raises until that can happen,” Ecklund said.
Monday’s board of education meeting can be viewed on the district’s media page at media.kpbsd.k12.ak.us.
Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at email@example.com.