District support staff to get pay raises

The move was approved by the school board Monday

The Kenai Peninsula Borough School District’s support staff are getting raises this school year.

The board of education Monday approved the pay hikes in an agreement with the union that represents those employees. The board also approved the creation of a program that aims to grow the number of special education employees within the district.

Those initiatives were outlined in two separate memorandums of agreement approved by board members during their regular Monday night meeting in Soldotna.

The first memorandum outlines pay increases for the 2022-2023 and 2023-2024 school years for the district’s support staff. For the upcoming school year, support staff wages will start at $16.73, compared to the $15.04 agreed upon in the collective bargaining agreement last year. For the 2023-2024 school year, those wages will start at $17.06, compared to the $15.34 described in the collective bargaining agreement.

In proposing the pay bumps, the memorandum cites a “post-pandemic inflation increase” and “the importance of retaining and recruiting” for vacant positions during the upcoming school years.

Board member Jason Tauriainen, who said he is a former support staff member, called the pay bump “a long time coming.”

“The ability to make this happen here is both unusual and unprecedented and it’s something that was needed for support staff,” Tauriainen said. “I’m thankful to be on this board and have an opportunity to cast my positive vote for this.”

Board member Matt Morse, who represents Kenai, said he would not support the memorandum boosting pay for the district’s support staff because he does not think it will lead to “long-term comprehensive solutions.”

“I do support helping our lowest paid employee group in this time of historical high inflation,” Morse said. “However, I don’t think that how we’re going about this will lead to long-term comprehensive solutions.”

Approval of that memorandum came roughly two months after members of both the Kenai Peninsula Educational Support Association, which represents the district’s support staff, and the Kenai Peninsula Education Association, which represents the district’s certified staff, rallied outside of the George A. Navarre Admin Building to call for higher support staff pay.

The second memorandum approved by board of education members Monday describes a new “Grow-Your-Own” program through which the district will financially support classified employees who want to participate in a special education teaching program. That memorandum cites the district’s desire to “develop additional pathways to develop and recruit special education employees.”

KPESA President Susanna Litwiniak spoke during Monday’s board meeting in support of both memorandums, which she called great examples of “what can happen when we work together toward a common goal.”

“I think that both of them are going to go far in furthering what we’re all working towards — making sure that the students get what they need,” Litwiniak said.

Monday’s full board of education meeting can be found on the district’s media website at media.kpbsd.k12.ak.us.

Reach reporter Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.