NASELLE — The Naselle-Grays River Vallley School District (NGRVSD) Board of Directors held its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 21, at the Grays River Fire Hall, at which staff salaries were a key topic of discussion.
Actions taken by the board included the hiring of Kathryn Green as a 2018-19 teacher, Russell Hickman as Middle School girls’ basketball coach and Aldrich Smith Middle School football coach. The board also approved a contract with Pacific County for nursing services in the amount of $19,648, the adoption of board goals for 2018-19 school year, approval of Superintendent Lisa Nelson’s goals for the 2018-19 school year and, the purchase of anatomy/physiology textbooks. Nelson provided a first reading of WSSDA policy 6000 “Budget Planning and Preparation.”
Approximately a dozen teachers from the Naselle-Grays River Valley School and the Naselle Youth Camp School attended the meeting dressed in red T-shirts indicating their support for salary increases for teachers. During the public comment period, three of the teachers made presentations.
Aldrich Smith, Naselle Grays River Education Association vice president and Youth Camp teacher, reported the teachers disagreed with the budget projections prepared by NGRVSD’s Finance Director, Kent Simpson from ESD-112.
“We feel the budget was low on revenue and high on expenses,” said Smith. “There were 335 students last year and the projection was based on 300 students. If those additional 35 students were included in the projection at the rate of $13,527 per student, the budget would show an additional $473,445 each year for a total of $1,893,780 over the four-year projection period and would not have a decrease in its ending fund balance as predicted.”
Sue Holt, K-12 teacher, noted the district lost a teacher last month to the Ocean Beach School District that is paying higher wages. She reported there will be six more job openings next year in Ocean Beach.
“Our students deserve caring, highly qualified teachers,” said Holt.
Rudi Rudolph, Naselle-Grays River Education Association president and Naselle Youth Camp teacher, reported “The state legislature said the average (teacher) salary was low and upped it to $65,216 with scheduled increases of 5.9 percent and 1.9 percent.”
Rudolph expressed the opinion that 100 percent of the state allocation for teachers’ salaries should be used to increase teachers’ pay and provided a spread sheet which he felt justified salary increases of 22 percent for NGRVSD teachers.
When interviewed following the adjournment of the meeting, Nelson noted, “The last thing we want to do is overestimate our student population, make budgetary commitments for expenditures and then find we don’t have the money to meet those commitments. We are funded by taxpayers’ money and, appropriately, have a responsibility for realistic management. Budgeting based on a hope something will change does not meet that responsibility. We are proud of our school district. We’re proud of our teachers and will always make the effort to provide them the best tools and level of pay within the realm of responsible fiscal management. It’s important to remember salary increases and the costs associated with them go on in perpetuity while student population is a year to year variable.”
Nelson added, “The amount Mr. Aldrich provided as per student revenue from the state is in error. It looks as if he may have tried to combine a number of revenue streams including local levy dollars, federal funds, and state revenue. Local levy dollars are not contingent upon enrollment. They are based on assessed value only.”
A subsequent survey by the Observer of NGRVSD’s student population records over the past 16 years showed an average of 308 students per year with a low of 265 in 2013 and a high of 338 in 2007. Based on the average student population, a budget projection using a population of 335 students and the student rate provided above by Smith would result in an annual deficit of $363,538 and a four-year loss of $1,454,153.
The newspaper KitsapSun, a part of the USA Today Network located in Bremerton, provides a Washington Teacher Salary Database on its website. A compilation of the data for NGRVSD teachers contained in that database yields the following: Average annual salary (2017-2018) is $66,670, ranging from a high of $96,831 to a low of $41,360; Average certificated years of experience is 15.2 with 17 of the 27 teachers having 10 years or more, 12 having 15 years or more, eight having 20 years or more and four with 30 or more years; the average cost to the district for teacher health insurance is $9,218 and, the average cost of mandatory benefits (workers compensation/L&I, etc.) is $15,825. Further information on NGRSVD employees and those of other school districts in the state can be found on-line at data.kitsapsun.com/projects/wa-school/.
Prior to the close of the meeting, Nelson reported a public records request had been received from Rudi Rudolph – Teachers’ Union President, for the District’s 2018-19 budget submitted to the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the degrees and years of experience of the new teacher hires and, a copy of the budget presentation made at the July 2018 Board meeting.
The next regular meeting of the Board will take place on Sept. 18 starting at 6:30 p.m. in the Middle School commons.
—Nick Nikkila is a member of the Naselle-Grays River Vallley School District Board of Directors.