Davidson: Positive talk about public schools staff is 'lip service' without money

Mike Christopherson

Using as an example the new, three-year employment contract agreement reached with Crookston Public Schools’ trio of school principals, school board member Dave Davidson said this week that all of the public praise heaped on district teachers and staff by administration prior to but especially during the pandemic is “pretty meaningless” if the talk is not backed up with actual money in employees’ pockets.

The three-year contract includes a 2% salary increase the first year and is followed by 2.5% increases in each of the next two years. Davidson called it a “real handsome” pay increase. 

The new contract with the principals was part of this week’s consent agenda that included several other resolutions and would have been approved with a single vote and no discussion. But Davidson asked that it be moved to the regular agenda, saying, “When we’re talking about giving our employees increases of this size, we probably need to discuss it.” He went onto say that not all board members are part of the Negotiations Committee, so it would be nice for the full board to get consistent updates on how negotiations are going with various employee groups.

Davidson wondered if other employee groups would be able to look forward to salary increases as significant as the principals. To that, Superintendent Jeremy Olson noted that the percentage increase in the principals’ contract is the smallest percentage increase in the current negotiations cycle with the various employee groups. Given that principals typically are compensated at a higher level than teachers and staff, board member Tim Dufault added that the actual dollar increase might seem more significant with the principals, even if the actual percentage increase is smaller. Davidson responded that he was aware of that.

In the end, Davidson implied that district administration needs to put its money where its mouth is.

“We do a lot of lip service in public about how wonderful our employees are and how giving they’ve been through all of this stuff of the past year,” he said. “But unless we back that up with actual revenue, it’s pretty meaningless.”

Davidson voted in favor of the contract along with the three other board members in attendance at this week’s meeting. Board chair Frank Fee and board member Adrianne Winger were absent.