Teachers promised Prop 301 monies

“(Proposition) 301 was not meant to be a gift — you have to earn it.”

That was the sentiment of Bruce Baker, board member of the Williams Unified School District’s Governing Board, towards the Williams Education Association’s request that Prop 301 monies be spent on teacher salaries.

Ann Wells, WEA’s Meet and Confer chairperson, spoke to the school board April 11 about how the WEA wants Proposition 301 monies spent.

“What we would like is for the 40 percent of the discretionary monies to go towards the staff,” she said. “We’d still be behind the state averages, but we’d be much closer to those averages.”

Proposition 301, passed by voters in November, increased the sales tax from 5 percent to 5.6 percent in January and is expected to bring an estimated $445 million into the state this year. For Williams, approximately $265,000 will be raised with the new tax. Roughly 59 percent of this money will be used for a classroom site fund.

This classroom site fund will be broken down to 40 percent for performance pay, 20 percent for base compensation increases for teachers and 40 percent for discretionary needs.

Increase teacher salaries, reducing class sizes, AIMS intervention, staff development, dropout prevention and teacher liability insurance are the six ways the discretionary needs monies can be used. The WEA requested the money be used to increase salaries.

Currently, WUSD ranks in the bottom most portion of the state in reference to teacher’s wages.

“For our base, we’re in the bottom 10 percent,” Wells said. “We think the best way to spend that money for the next year is to put that money into teacher salaries.”

The number one reason people leave the teaching profession is because of low wages, Wells said.

“They are looking for the best salaries,” she said.

This year alone, more than half of the 35 teachers at the WEMS are non-continuing, said principal Brad Ellico.

“That means we have 19 teachers who have less than three years of experience,” with the school district, Ellico said.

More than 35 teachers and staff members from the school district were at the March 14 school board meeting to support the WEA’s request. At that time, Wells, Scott Grimes, band teacher for Williams schools, Kristi Fredrickson, math teacher at the high school and president of the WEA, and other staff members presented the board with a breakdown of how the WEA wanted the money distributed. This discussion covered all three areas of the classroom site fund.

The board did say they supported the WEA’s stance. However, they could not act on the item because the WEA’s request was brought to the board during the call to the public.

“I really don’t have any objection to putting every penny into the salary schedule,” Baker said at the March meeting.

At the April meeting, Baker said, “I see the 301 money as a gift to the teachers from the taxpayers.”

Baker said when he walked into the April meeting he was ready to make the motion to approve the WEA’s request, which was an action item. However, during the discussion Baker questioned whether the group should get approval before presenting the board with a complete outline for the rest of the money.

“If you’re not willing to challenge yourself with (working on) the other 40 percent, I’m reluctant to make the motion,” Baker said. “I don’t believe in freebies.

“I want to see what you want to do with it “

Scott Grimes, band teacher for Williams schools, answered Baker’s statement with a challenge of his own.

“We’re challenged enough to work here with the pay,” he said. “The challenge should be to get the pay up.”

Baker said he’s concerned about how the money will be distributed.

“I’m a little worried about that,” he said. “I’d like to see some progress being made.”

Wells and Grimes explained to the board the WEA plans on using a districtwide approach to the 40 percent performance-based pay, which is the same information they presented at the March meeting.

“We’re trying to get a performance-based system where everyone gets a raise,” Wells said. “The WEA is for all staff raises.”

After a 45 minute discussion, Baker made the motion to ratify the WEA Meet and Confer recommendations for the 301 money. The board unanimously agreed.

Also at the meeting, the board approved:

o Paying the bills totaling $365,121.

o Hiring Gary Todd and Associates, from Phoenix, for architectural services.

o Reducing the current school calendar by one day. The last day of school is now June 5.

o New textbooks for Williams Elementary/Middle School.

o Hiring Nichole Kennelly, special education aide; Tina McWilliams, special education aide substitute; and Lawerence Rodriguez, volunteer baseball coach.

o Donations to the Williams High School cheerleader activity fund — Paula Tapp, $4.25; Robert Franzen, $17; Russell Rogers, $25; American Legion Post #42, $100; Fray Marcos Hotel, $50; Northland Beverages, $50; and $250 from the City of Williams; the Williams Unified School District band program — a popcorn machine from Gateway Mobil; and $150 from Aspen Homemakers for a reference library for the school nurse.

o Out of state travel for the senior trip to California, April 20-23.

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