School board ratifies ‘historic’ pay increase, adding more than $6 million to salary pool
photo by: Matt Resnick | Journal World
The Lawrence school board voted Monday to approve union contracts for certified and classified staff — as well as non-represented district administration for the 2023-24 school year.
A combined $6.65 million was added to the salary pool for personnel districtwide. The classified salary pool was increased by 16.7% — followed by certified staff pool at 8.1%, and the administrative pool by 5.5%.
While the monthslong negotiations process was characterized as difficult but ultimately rewarding by board member Ronald “G.R.” Gordon-Ross, the general tenor was that of praise for those closely involved with the negotiations process. Board members Kelly Jones and Shannon Kimball joined Superintendent Anthony Lewis in calling the ratification of the deals “historic.”
Lewis added that increased salaries were several years in the making and that all sides “delivered” on past promises.
Representing the district on behalf of classified staff, Carol Allen told the Journal-World that she was pleased with the final agreement but will “continue to advocate for raises to a living wage.”
Board member Paula Vann appeared to critique the process, saying that she was hopeful for a more “inclusive” process at the bargaining table — in which “more voices are heard.”
Details of the administration’s agreement had been scant prior to Monday night’s meeting — with the infusion of $325,000 in the administrative salary pool. Gordon-Ross told the Journal-World prior to the meeting that he was under the impression that the dollars would primarily be dispersed to address disparity in pay among district principals — but was able to gain some clarity from Lawrence Public Schools HR Director Kristen Ryan. As it turns out, individual administrators are in line for no less than a 4% wage-hike.
The board also approved a 3-year contract extension for Lewis. Lewis’ base pay is $229,295, with benefits increasing that figure to $234,635. Additionally, Lewis opted for the 4% increase to be applied to his benefits package, as opposed to his salary.
The district was able to free dollars in its budget with the elimination of 48 full-time equivalency (FTE) positions, saving $3.12 million, according to preliminary estimates from Cynde Frick, Lawrence Public Schools executive director of finance. Also according to Frick’s preliminary estimates, the closures of Broken Arrow and Pinckney elementary schools shaved an additional $693,000 from the district’s operations budget.
Frick’s next budget update will take place at the board’s Aug. 14 meeting. On its agenda, the board is tentatively slated to consider approval of the publication of maximum mill levies and budget authorities — as well as schedule public hearings.
In other business, the board:
• Approved an increase in meal price-points for the 2023-24 school year. The district’s Food Services operations made the recommendation due to rising food and labor costs. It marks the district’s first increase in meal prices since the 2019-20 school year — after which meals were provided free to all children during the COVID-19 pandemic. Elementary, middle school, and high school breakfast and lunch prices will increase by 10 cents — while adult meal prices are to increase by 45 cents for breakfast and 35 cents for lunch. The only category that remains unchanged is reduced-price meals.
• Reorganized, with Kelly Jones replacing Shannon Kimball as board president — and Kimball now assuming the title of past president. After being sworn-in by County Clerk Jamie Shew, Bob Byers was promptly voted to assume the role of vice president — replacing Paula Vann.
• After much discussion, the board voted 4-3 against administration’s recommendation for approval of the district’s Restorative Practice and Behavior matrix for the most severe incidents. The matrix is utilized for guiding investigations into student behavioral actions. Restorative practices are defined as an alternative approach to punitive discipline and “deeply rooted in the practices and values of Indigenous Peoples around the globe,” according to board documents. Much of the board’s discussion centered on clarity regarding the proposed disciplinary measures — as well as a desire to be more involved in the process. The board plans to further discuss the topic at its next meeting.