SENECA - Seneca teachers will return to school little happier following Monday’s action at the school board meeting.
At the end of the district’s fiscal year, there was some discussion of a raise for the teachers and other staff at the school. The board was considering a 2.5 or a three percent raise.
Subsequently, the district learned that state aid would probably be reduced and the raise might not be possible. However, at a recent meeting, the board approved changing health insurers from the Wisconsin Education Association to Quartz. That change resulted in a savings of $160,000.
Seneca District Administrator David Boland explained to the board that the three-percent raise would cost the district about $47,500.
“My thoughts are we have opportunity here to share the windfall in medical insurance with teachers and staff,” Boland said. “They have treated us well in the past. Even in the days of the union when we faced a big tax increase, they were willing to forgo a pay raise.”
The Consumer Price Index, which is used to calculate the base for teacher raises in the state, is 2.44 percent this year, Boland explained.
Seneca Area School Board President Mark Johnson indicated that he supported using some of the health insurance savings to give the staff a three-percent raise.
School board member Charles Clark questioned whether it would be better to make the raise 2.5 percent and retain $7,000 for signing bonuses if needed.
Board member Larry Kelley noted that veteran teachers might take offense at the notion of paying more to recruit new teachers who have never worked for the district.
Boland pointed out that in certain fields it was getting increasingly difficult to hire teachers.
Clark stated he supported the idea of sharing the health insurance savings windfall with the staff.
Johnson thought a three percent raise was something substantial the school could do.
“Our staff does a damn good job,” Kelley said. “They’re doing what they’re supposed to do.”
“When you think about what teachers go through on a daily basis, they deserve it,” board member Rachael George added.
Kelley moved to offer all staff, across the board, a three-percent raise. Tyler Aspenson seconded the motion. The board approved the motion unanimously with Chad Sime and Charles Clark abstaining. Both Sime andClark have family members who will be affected by the action. Board member Shawn Lenzendorf was absent from the meeting.
In addition to the teachers and other professional staff, Kelley's motion also included the support staff and administrative staff in the three percent raise.
The board also approved buying 35 new Chromebook computers. Each of the 27 incoming freshmen will receive one of the laptops. The other eight will be used in the elementary and middle school.
Boland noted that in the past, the Seneca Education Foundation had picked up half of the cost of the computers and would probably do so again.
In answer to a question, Boland said the Chromebooks were durable and had about a six- or seven-year lifespan.
The board decided the Seneca Area School District Monthly Recognition Award should be given to retiring bus driver Leonard Olson and retiring assistant football coach Robert Buffington–as well as the janitorial staff for their work readying the building for the start of the school year. It was noted that Leonard Olson began driving a school bus for the district in 1963.
In other business, the Seneca School Board:
• approved a second reading of the Early College Credit Program and Start College Now Program
• agreed to continue using vans to transport middle school students
• renewed the district’s membership in the Wisconsin Rural Schools Association (WIRSA)• approved replacing nine windows in the elementary school at a cost of $4,734