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Board moves positions to administrative classification; The Village gets not to conduct survey

Eleven positions previously categorized as teaching positions became administrative level positions at Monday night's School Board meeting held at Aurora Elementary School. A group of specialists, coordinators, and liaison personnel had earlier approached the board, requesting to be removed from the West Fargo Education Association's jurisdiction during upcoming contract negotiations.

In a letter to the board citing the definitions of a teacher and an administrator as defined by North Dakota Century School Codes, the group requested to be moved from the classification of teachers to have their job descriptions changed to administrators.

Superintendent Dana Diesel Wallace asked the board, "Do you see these positions as teachers, or do you see them as administrators according the North Dakota Century Code? If they are administrators by Century Code, we need to categorize them as administrators. The question tonight is, are they administrators or are they teachers?"

After a half-hour long discussion, the board voted 5-2 to approve the request. The dissenting votes came from Duane Hanson and Ben Koppelman. Following the meeting, both board members voiced concerns that they would have felt more comfortable if there had been an option to create a second level tier for the positions.

"Going by their list of duties, they certainly shouldn't be considered teachers, but I didn't feel that this group really fit what we consider administrators either," Koppelman said.

According to Robin Hill, human resources director for the district, there has been a wide range of disparity for the specialists' pay as their jobs have evolved. Categorizing the positions as administrative positions will help define their roles more clearly. Going by this year's teachers' salary schedule about half of the group would move up in pay, costing the district an estimated combined salary increase of between $32,000 to $35,000, plus benefits, including 403k matches.

In other action, the board voted unanimously to hire The Village Business Institute to conduct an employee engagement survey to help assess morale among district staff. On January 26, the board had tabled action, requesting more information from The Village before making their final decision.

Chuck Summers, representing The Village Business Institute in Fargo, was invited to Monday's board meeting to answer questions and explain the process the company will implement in developing and administering the survey. He estimated that they should be able to have the survey questions ready by April, with results back by this summer.

The board also approved a staffing request creating a new interim position for an assistant principal for the middle school students at the Lodoen Center; and approved amendments to the 2008-09 budget.

Pete Diemert, building and grounds director, gave an update on the construction progress on the new kindergarten building in Osgood, indicating that the contractors have been doing a good job of keeping the project on schedule. An August 1 completion date is expected.

The board also heard reports on the Compass Learning Program, and summer school updates.

The next school board meeting will be held at Westside Elementary School on March 9, at 6 p.m., preceded by a Committee of the Whole meeting at 5:30 p.m.