Monday, July 22, 2024

Triton support staff asks for competitive wage package

A large group of the Triton School District’s educational support staff approached the Triton School Board Monday night to ask the board to consider changes to their pay and benefits package.

Jill Roussopoulos, an educational assistant, addressed the board on behalf of herself and other support staff.

“I have served this district as an educational assistant for 11-1/2 years,” she said. “I say served because, for those of us working in the educational field, we are serving the greater good. We have a belief in helping others, and in building a strong and safe community for children. We know that children, plus a strong school district, are the foundation of a community. Educational assistants are the tenders of that foundation.”

The issue, she said, is that Triton is the lowest paying employer of support staff, bus drivers, and custodians, not just in Dodge County, but within a 50-mile radius of Dodge Center.

What the staff is asking, she told board members, is for a competitive wage and benefits package. She said many in the bargaining unit struggle financially and work two or three jobs.

The irony of this is, she said, that many educational support staff go out of their way to help students who are hungry or have other needs and use their own personal resources to meet those needs.

She went on to point out that one of Triton’s district goals, as listed on the district website is to “retain and attract highly qualified employees who contribute to excellence.”

When the staff is so underpaid compared to every district in the area, not to mention the private sector, how will the district attract and retain employees, she asked.

Roussopoulos’ comments were made during the public comment portion of the meeting. Board members listened to the presentation but made no comments and there was no discussion of the request.

In actions at the meeting, the board approved contracts for Simplicia Agerter as an ESL childcare assistant, Kristine Ocampo Mora as bilingual liaison, Enna Fisher as TMS/THS paraprofessional and an extracurricular contract for Jennifer Ryg as the Fall Play director.

The board also approved the proposed Certified Staff Seniority List for 2023-2024 and the Proposed Classified Staff Seniority List for 2023-2024.

They also approved a ZED Joint Powers Agreement that was modified to reflect the Pine Island School District leaving the group at the end of the 2022-2023 school year.

Supt. Craig Schlichting reported that the district’s contract negotiations have reached a tentative agreement with the certified staff.

He also told board members the district would continue with the protocol that has been in place this year regarding how the district’s School Resource Officer Deputy Dave Skadson would respond to a situation where a student needed to be restrained. Since a state law passed in the last Legislative session placed restrictions on what SRO’s could do, Schlichting said that Skadson will call for support from the Sheriff’s Office in such a situation.

The state legislation has resulted in some Minnesota law enforcement agencies cancelling their SRO agreements. There have been requests for a special session to revisit the law, but Schlichting said he did not believe that is likely. Legislators have said they will look at the situation again in the 2024 session.



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