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West Fargo School district considers adding incentive benefits for teachers

The West Fargo School District's negotiating team is considering the possibility of implementing two new incentive programs for teachers. Board president Tom Gentzkow brought the proposals to the table during the negotiations meeting held on Tuesday, July 21, at the Lodoen Education Center boardroom.

Under the first proposal, teachers reaching the end of a school year with perfect attendance could receive a one-time monetary bonus, in a range somewhere around $500 to $1,000. Absences due to professional leaves, school related events, or coaching commitments would not count against a teacher's chances of qualifying for the program. The dollar amount of the bonuses, and specific details about the program, are still being developed.

Dan Wolf, head negotiator for the West Fargo Education Association, indicated that WFEA would definitely have joint interest in pursuing the perfect attendance incentive.

"Add as many zeroes as you feel necessary," Wolf joked.

However, Aaron Knodel asked if the program would be considered a reward or an incentive. He speculated that how incentives are set up could be tricky.

"What happens if a teacher gets toward the end of the school year with perfect attendance, but a funeral comes up?" he asked, as an example of one of the possible situations that could arise.

"Would it encourage people to come to work even when they are sick?" Dan Wolf asked.

The item was tabled until next week's meeting to give the district more time to look at possible options for the proposal and to fine-tune the details.

Another incentive package the district has proposed is a program that would encourage teachers to apply for national board certification. Under the proposal, the district would offer to help pay expenses incurred in the certification process. Upon completion of certification, the teacher would receive a $3,000 stipend, with $2,000 each year for a limit of four years.

If implemented, both programs would have sunset clauses built into the plans to allow the district time to analyze the effectiveness and value of each program before deciding whether the programs should be continued.

Robin Hill, human resources director for the district, presented a comprehensive overview of the history of the salary index and explained how the schedule works. Hill reminded negotiators that during Tim Scully's tenure as WFEA's head negotiator in recent years, WFEA and the district had been studying possible ways the index could be improved to help make all salary steps more equitable. Hill encouraged members of this year's negotiating teams to experiment with the models to become familiarized with how the inter-related data is affected by changes made to the index, and to consider whether it is time to make revisions to the index.

WFEA withdrew its request to amend emergency leave language to include special circumstances not covered by the current contract language.

"We feel it's a very good, solid definition of an emergency leave, but WFEA is willing to withdraw the proposal being the board doesn't seem very willing to pursue it at this time," Wolf said.

Other agenda items, including the communications panel, catastrophic sick leave bank, and personal leave, were tabled pending further discussion.

The next negotiations session will be held on Monday, July 27, at 5 p.m. at the Leidal Education Center boardroom, followed by the regular school board meeting at 6:45 p.m.