Kay Batchelder: School board deserves our thanks — and a raise

I have followed with keen interest the proposal that salaries for Rochester City Council members be set by an independent commission and that this commission be created by ordinance. My reaction to that proposal is an enthusiastic, "Hooray!"

I served with dedication and great joy, I might add, on the Rochester School Board from 1987-93. During that time, my colleagues and I were paid $7,200 per year. During that six years, I spent an average of 20 hours per week on school board work.

The idea of compensation for Rochester School Board members was put forth and accepted by the board members in 1975. Karen Ricklefs, who served as board president in 1973-74, noted many years later that she did not expect a "real salary" but would have liked some help with her babysitting expenses. The amount that was agreed upon after a citizens committee studied the issue was $3,600 per year. That amount remained until 1987, when it was raised to $7,200 per year.

It is important to note I do not serve on any school-related committees, and have not since 1993. Furthermore, I am not acquainted with any of the present school board members and have not communicated with them on this issue or any others.

They serve this vibrant and growing area in a system that is far more complex than it was in 1975 or 1987. Their annual salary is — you guessed it — still $7,200. This compares to Rochester City Council members' salaries of $19,097 and Olmsted County Commissioner salaries of $35,908.


The disparity is quite dramatic.

To remedy this matter, I propose an independent citizens committee be appointed by Superintendent Michael Munoz or his designee, with a mission similar to the one appointed in 1975, with the goal to update salary for school board members, hopefully by January 2014.

Citizens do not run for public office because they have nothing better to do, or to just augment the family income. Dedicated citizens are candidates because they have a strong interest in the issues and because they want to make a difference in the lives of others.

This is surely substantiated by the number of people who have been candidates for the Rochester School Board positions at any given time in the past 20 years. While we may not always agree with their reasons for running, or with the positions they take when elected, that must never detract from the fact they and their families all make great personal sacrifices to run and to serve.

They deserve our thanks for doing so.

Kay Batchelder is a Rochester resident and is a former member of the Rochester School Board.

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