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Rochester School Board considers raising members' pay for first time in more than 30 years

Since 1985, the board members have been paid $7,200.

Rochester School Board
Rochester School Board

The last time Rochester School Board members received a raise was before one of the current board members was even born.

The board began a conversation Tuesday about whether it should raise the compensation members receive. The conversation went beyond pay itself and into how many hours members dedicate to the job and whether raising the compensation would attract more people to serve.

Since 1985, the board members have been paid $7,200 annually. A recommendation not yet voted upon is to increase the amount to $16,000, with the board chair receiving an additional $1,600.

According to board member Melissa Amundsen, if a cost of living adjustment had been added yearly to the 1985 compensation, school board members would have received about $17,000 in 2020.

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Although not speaking against a pay increase, board member Don Barlow clarified that the role of a school board member should not be predicated on the compensation.

"When I ran and was elected, I was surprised to find out that we were paid," Barlow said. "It's important to also acknowledge that no one runs to be a school board member because of the pay. We do it out of, I believe, our concern for our children's educational futures."

Serving on the school board can be time intensive. Jess Garcia, who was not even born when the compensation was last adjusted, said she's had to rearrange commitments in her full-time job more than once in order to accommodate the needs of the school board.

She said this is an opportunity to provide "truth in advertising" about the school board member position: is it more of a volunteer position with relatively limited hours, or is it more like a part-time job?

Several board members said that being more clear about the hours and raising the compensation to match the time commitment would help open the board positions to a broader range of candidates.

"It takes a lot more time than I expected," Garcia said about serving on the board. "I think people should be paid for the work that they're doing, particularly if they have their own children at home, if they have another job."

Board member Julie Workman said that even with the proposed increase, the compensation would still be "less than half the compensation of the city council" and yet the school district covers an area larger tha the city of Rochester itself.

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Amundsen echoed that:

"Even an increase up to $16,000 a year is far, far below what our counterparts on those other governing boards are receiving," she said.

Jordan Shearer covers K-12 education for the Post Bulletin. A Rochester native, he graduated from Bemidji State University in 2013 before heading out to write for a small newsroom in the boonies of western Nebraska. Bringing things full circle, he returned to Rochester in 2020 just shy of a decade after leaving. Readers can reach Jordan at 507-285-7710 or jshearer@postbulletin.com.
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