Although agreeing to purchase McBride Stadium might be the most visible outcome of Richmond Community Schools’ Oct. 18 board meeting, it wasn’t the action that received audience applause.
That celebration was after a 6-0 vote to increase pay for staff such as preschool teachers and classroom paraprofessionals.
Classified staff salaries
Some RCS teachers have previously advocated for higher pay to attract/retain their classified colleagues in hopes of reducing turnover. Some of those changes:
- Preschool instructors will receive at least $18 per hour.
- Certified substitute teachers and building substitute teachers will receive $115 for full days; subs will receive $95 for full days.
- Classified contractual and hourly staff will receive a minimum increase of 3% more per hour.
- Instructional paraprofessionals, applied skills paraprofessionals/special education job coaches, transportation monitors, liaisons and office clericals and Environmental Services II/III positions will increase to a $15 minimum per hour.
- Incremental increases will be provided based on years of service for all those positions.
- Up to $1 per hour can be added at the superintendent’s discretion for positions that are difficult to fill but must be filled to meet students’ educational needs.
After extensive previous discussions, the board voted 6-0 to sign a purchase agreement of $12,000 for the stadium, although hundreds of thousands of dollars are expected for improvements and maintenance. Member Aaron Stevens was absent, but had expressed support at the last discussion.
RCS now pays Richmond Parks and Recreation $6,800 annually for Richmond High School’s baseball team to use the field.
RCS’ conservative estimates for improvements are $551,000 for year 1; $302,000 for year 2, which includes potential expenses for RHS’ softball team moving there; and $100,000 to $275,000 annually.
Attorney Ron Cross said a 90-day due diligence period will begin, including a land survey and Phase 1 environmental study. He expects closing will be early 2024.
During statewide board training, RCS members learned that others don’t offer a 5-minute comment from individuals (total of 30 minutes) during public meetings as RCS does. Most limit each speaker to 3 minutes; some are 1 minute. The board conducted a first reading of an updated policy allowing 3 minutes each. Commentary is limited to agenda topics during work sessions or special meetings. The policy will return for a final vote.
The board approved the 2024 budget and a school operations fund levy appeal resolution, also with a 6-0 vote.
Chief Financial Officer Jamie Bolser said the new requested tax rate is increasing slightly to 1.0564, but because most RCS taxpayers already hit their property tax caps, they won’t see higher bills. The increase means RCS will get a larger share of the pie.
The appeal is for $420,839 for transportation costs because they increased approximately 17% over the preceding year, above the 10% excess levy requirement.
Budget documents are attached to the Oct. 18 meeting agenda on RCS’ website.
RCS administrators announced spring/summer replacement of Lyboult Field’s artificial turf for an estimated $260,000, already budgeted in the 2024 capital plan. It’s 10 years old and showing wear at the end of its warranty, increasing potential lawsuits. Additional students (band, soccer, youth football, etc.) can use the turf rather than natural grass because divots aren’t a concern.
Teacher contract negotiations ongoing
Progress on negotiations for Richmond Community Schools’ new contract with teachers weren’t mentioned by board members or administrators during the Oct. 18 RCS board meeting.
About 20 RCS teachers and supporters gathered after school Oct. 17 for a “compensation campfire” outside the administration building to support Richmond Education Association’s seven-member bargaining team as the first negotiation session began.
REA Vice President Jay Lee said REA and Indiana State Teachers Association plans to analyze RCS administration’s offer after learning how many per-pupil dollars RCS will receive this school year, based on the official state student count. REA can then accept RCS’ offer or counteroffer.
Beyond compensation, REA also can negotiate on various contract terms, such as the teaching schedule for REA’s president.
Negotiations must conclude Nov. 14, or it becomes an impasse and mediation begins.
Lee said this is his third time to serve on REA’s bargaining team. He said the first contract he worked on was settled the first night of negotiations, but the last contract had to go to mediation.
As talks began, Lee said that he was “optimistically hopeful” the two sides could come together soon.
The Oct. 17 crowd was smaller than the approximately 200 teachers, staff and community members who gathered outside the Sept. 27 RCS board meeting to show their support for REA President Kelley McDermott.
RCS has recommended canceling McDermott’s contract, and REA and ISTA are working on her behalf. The 36-year teacher has been placed on paid leave for what administrators describe as “a recent incident of willful insubordination” related to the teachers’ opening day gathering and her arrival afterward at Dennis Middle School.
Earlier this year, REA had filed unfair labor practice complaints against RCS to Indiana Education Employment Relations Board. McDermott’s situation is now part of those complaints.
A version of this article appeared in the October 25 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.