April 22, 2014

Carroll's teacher associates who work with perhaps the most challenging special-education students - those who are so-called "severe and profound" - will get extra pay under a new agreement school leaders approved Monday.

The Carroll Community School District Board of Education set new wages for bus drivers, teacher associates and other support staff with a two-year contract with the Carroll Education Support Association. The contract includes a 3.46-percent package increase next year and a 3.5-percent increase in 2015-16.

Next year's 3.46-percent increase represents roughly $62,000 of the district's $32.7 million budget for fiscal year 2015.

"Instead of playing a cat-and-mouse game, they just came and they were serious, and we were serious, and that's why we got this handled so quick," said board president Kim Tiefenthaler.

It has been six years since the district has approved a two-year contract with its support staff. The situation holds "unknowns" for both the district and the employees, said superintendent Rob Cordes.

The association has reserved the right to come back to the table to negotiate specifics of the salary package next year, once the health-care costs are updated.

The package increase includes a 45-cent-per-hour raise for regular and special-education teacher associates, health assistants, educational interpreters, transportation workers, hourly bus drivers and activity and field-trip bus drivers, and $40-per-month increase for nine months for route bus drivers.

The agreement also established a new position for special-education teacher associates for severe and profound students, with beginning wage of $11.06 per hour - $1 higher than that of a regular special-education teacher associate.

The increased workload that falls to a teacher associate responsible for a severe special-education student was brought to the board's attention most recently when Tim and Kristi Hinners addressed the school board during its November meeting. The Hinnerses, parents of two Carroll Middle School students who have cerebral palsy, were concerned with the high turnover rate of the school's special-education aides.

In a statewide severity-rating system, their son was rated a level three for things such as diapering and self-injurious behaviors; but their son's aide was paid the same amount as an employee helping a child rated levels one or two, he said.

At the time, CCSD business manager Gary Bengtson said the district had differentiated between special-education teacher associates before, but the issue had not been addressed in nearly five years.

Cordes said Monday night that the distinction was something the board had wanted to do for "quite some time" but acknowledged that the Hinnerses' appeal likely spurred the process.

The district has not yet concluded contract negotiations with the teachers' association.

In other action, the board approved a new position at the high school level for a dean of students, possibly to replace the assistant principal position vacated when Tammie McKenzie was promoted to principal earlier this year.

Duties of the dean of students would include managing student-discipline issues, including attendance, harassment and bullying; serve on building committees; help assist students plan high-school courses; be able to discuss career plans with students; provide lunchroom and extracurricular supervision; assist with the orientation of new staff members; coordinate grade reporting and record-keeping; assist with student-testing; act as adviser to student senate; and assist with the production of school materials such as handbooks, bulletins, schedules and directories.

Salary and length of contract will be determined by the board if a candidate is found, said Cordes.

A key difference between the dean position and an assistant principal position is that the dean of students requires only a bachelor's degree in eduction, psychology or behavioral science, as opposed to a master's degree or administrative endorsement - a difference that will save the district an estimated $20,000 on the salary. Cordes expects the dean position to pay between $55,000 and $60,000, compared with an assistant principal at $75,000 or $80,000.

Key differences in the duties rest primarily in the staff-evaluation and school-improvement areas, said Cordes. While these duties did partially fall to the assistant principal, they would not fall to a dean of students.