Gawping at gaps

Loren Martell’s latest Reader column showed up online today. He mentioned our pontification heavy recent school board meeting that took three hours to complete dealing with three “gaps” to be found in our schools. His synopsis includes some of the verbiage and his observation that I can be pretty verby myself although he gives me a pass for this particular meeting.

The final gap he mentions is the pay gap between our hourly subs and everybody else:

The people who work part-time positions (10-14 hours a week,) performing tasks like monitoring playgrounds or filling in as substitutes for full-time workers in food service, get paid minimum wage by ISD 709.

The three dissenting Board members–Mr. Welty, Mr. Johnston and Ms Oswald–wanted to make a gesture of support to the district’s poorest workers by adding another fifty cents to the latest State-mandated increase, bringing their pay up to an even $10/hr., which administration estimated would cost $51,000 annually. Getting push-back against this increase, member Oswald tried to amend the resolution to a 25-cent increase.
“We approve change orders many times a year,” member O. argued, “that are vastly higher than $25,000. Just this month we’re being asked to approve $55,000 worth of window issues to be resolved at Myers-Wilkins. This is also something (still approving lingering Red Plan change orders) that we have to stop doing, if we want to argue that this increase in wages is not in our budget…We’ve already approved another administrative position that will be paid $102,000 a year. That’s only one employee. This quarter/hr. affects many, many more employees…”

The debate about fairness and gaps was off and running again. In the end, the people on the low end of the pay totem pole lost two-bits/hr. The vote was a 3-3 tie. In the boardroom a tie is a loss for those trying to pass something. For readers counting the “yous,” there were only six Board members present. Member Sandstad had been granted another “excused” absence, though I’d bet a quarter she would have been another ‘nay’ vote with her DFL-endorsed comrades.

Superintendent Gronseth weighed in on the debate, pointing out that “minimum wage in Wisconsin is still at $7.35/hr.” On the subject of gaps: at seven bucks an hour, it would take three people working nonstop 24/7, 365 days to equal the Superintendent’s annual compensation.
The man at the top of pay pyramid did graciously agree to keep a quarter tip jar on his desk, just in case some poor, minimum-wage bloke from Wisconsin should wander over the Bong bridge.

Three of us from the general public were left in the boardroom to witness the vote. As important as the evening’s debate was, the three-hour spectacle was not quite ready for the Olympics spotlight. In fact, when we finally got to the end, I did my very best imitation of Usain Bolt.

You can watch that debate on youtube at That discussion starts a little after the 1 hour 47 minute point.

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