Editorial: Mark your calendars so we'll remember to recognize their worth
Among those we elect to local office, school board members arguably have the most important job. They oversee the well-being and education of more than 3,000 students from kindergarten through age 18.
Talk about a formidable task. Unless there's a crisis or controversy, we take their work for granted. River Falls school board members don't have that luxury.
The issues they deal with never let up -- from evaluating the open/closed campus debate at the high school to deciding teacher-student class sizes; maintaining older school buildings and upgrading safety measures in the face of contemporary violence; negotiating the contracts for hundreds of employees, including teachers; deciding what programs are worth the expense and which ones can't be afforded in a $30-million-plus budget; and much more.
Seven citizens from our community who make up the school board give it a shot. The training is on-the-job. Some school board members become savvy and articulate and show great leadership. All of them mean well.
While it's an elected public service job, River Falls school board members are now underpaid. Their last raise came at the 1997 Annual Meeting!
Eleven years ago school district residents proposed and approved that board members be paid $2,000 annually; board members with extra duties for president, clerk and treasurer got $2,400.
At last week's Annual Meeting, an odd proposal to give the four board members earning $2,000 a 10% increase -- but nothing more for the president, clerk and treasurer -- was rejected. Unfortunately, no one proposed an alternative so that all board members would get the 10% increase. Instead, school board pay remained frozen in time -- for the 11th straight year.
By comparison, City Council members earn $6,000 a year with the mayor getting $12,000. Their last pay hike was two years ago. In the town of Kinnickinnic, the Town Board chairman gets $10,000 a year while town supervisors get $2,700. In the town of River Falls, the chairwoman is paid $7,000 annually while the supervisors get $3,500.
None of these publicly elected positions are full-time, bread-winning jobs. People don't run for local office to earn a living. Even so, we believe our locally elected school board is salary challenged. These well-meaning people deserve better compensation that reflects 11 years of inflation.
School district Annual Meetings occur only once a year, usually in August or September. That's when eligible district residents vote on a tax levy to support the general fund budget.
It's also the time when school board salaries are approved. At the 2009 Annual Meeting, we urge someone in attendance to propose a pay hike for all seven school board members. The rest of us can then join in by saying "yes." Until then, mark your calendars.