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The Packer Weekly: Teacher salaries ranked near top of state

By Elsa Bollinger and Logan Ahern

With the ever-changing West Fargo Public School District, eighth grade history teacher and member of the negotiation team, Tim Scully, thinks it is his opportunity to continually improve teacher salary schedules for the upcoming school year.

Scully has been a negotiator since 1991 and meets with teachers and school board meetings to set teacher salaries.

“I feel like I can help to make a difference and strengthen the contract,” Scully said. “I want to solidify the contract and give a voice to represent all of the members on the board.”

West Fargo High School is ranked in the top five in the North Dakota for benefit packages, including retirement, according to Scully. Former English teacher Marti Simmons retired three years ago and experiences these benefits first hand.

Prior to retirement, Simmons had taught for 30 years, 26 in the West Fargo School District and the other four years in the Fargo School District. Simmons said that even during her years of teaching, the benefits of the retirement package were extremely good.

The West Fargo salary schedule is based on number of years teaching and the level of education a teacher has acquired.

“The best way for you to start your retirement package is to move diagonally across so by the time you retire you are at the end of the schedule and the highest pay level,” Simmons said. “I would like to tell you that I planned all of that, but part of it was just serendipity.”

Human Resource Director Robin Hill stresses that teachers can expect more contribution from the board towards their Teacher’s Fund For Retirement (TFFR) budget. Currently, the board matches 10.75 percent of the teacher’s salary and next year the board will match 12.75 percent of a teacher’s salary for retirement.

“I do believe that it is a good system and it would be the system I would choose,” Hill said. “A lot of teachers start teaching very young and [the package] lets them retire out really early, and then they come back and sub for us.”

For students like senior Alyssa Livermont, who is thinking about teaching as a profession, having TFFR is ideal, but it does not affect her decision as a whole.

“The pay that teachers make wouldn’t affect my decision to be a teacher because I would rather make not as much money and do something I love rather than to be miserable in my life and make a bunch of money,” Livermont said.

However, Simmons said that although the retirement incentive is important, younger teachers may not realize how unstable it is becoming.

“I think it is extremely beneficial to have the district match what you put in because that is basically doubling the amount of money you have,” Simmons said. “I kind of feel badly for young teachers because they may never see retirement and they are paying money into retirement, but if the system is this unstable, they may not be able to have social security or teacher retirement.”

Besides the fact of teachers not having option to take all of the money out of their account, because 15 percent is taken out for retirement, Scully still believes it is a strong system.

“That is one thing that makes our overall contract strong and actually Fargo Schools got rid of it,” said Scully. “Having TFFR paid by the district just makes everything about our benefits great.”

Scully believes that taking only half of the teacher’s salary also helps bring new teachers to the district.

“We have to hire so many new teachers,” Scully said. “Just last month we hired six new teachers just in this building. That shows how fast the district is growing.”

 (The Packer Weekly is an ongoing column authored by journalism students at West Fargo High School with the intent of providing awareness about and insight into a variety school-related topics and activities. For additional information visit