The Pendleton School District’s union for educational assistants, secretaries and custodians wants to reinstate the top-end of the pay scale for classified employees.
At a Pendleton School Board meeting Monday, Teri McCoy, the president of the classified employee union and an assistant at Hawthorne Alternative High School, read a letter detailing their request.
During contract negotiations last summer, McCoy said the union agreed to a salary step freeze for the current school year in exchange for a new, ninth step on the pay scale. That meant no classified employee would receive a pay bump during the 2017-2018 school year, regardless of accumulated experience or performance.
But when she learned that an administrator had received a 2 percent cost-of-living salary increase, McCoy said she would have felt “remiss” if she didn’t lobby the board to have classified employee’s pay raises restored.
“A step increase for the classified employees who lost a step would not be a huge cost due to so few of them actually still moving steps, and it is the right thing to do,” she said.
With an uncertain state education budget and declining enrollment, the district initially made significant cuts to the budget. At one point, the district laid off 10 employees, before an improved budget projection from the state allowed them to hire many of them back.
In addition to concessions from the classified employees union, district administrators agreed to a one-year cost-of-living freeze to help aid the budget. But after approving the freeze in June, the board reinstated the 2 percent salary increase to Director of Business Services Michelle Jones in July.
“As the president of the classified union, and a hard-working employee of this school district, we are asking for real answers from the school board as to why the classified always have to sacrifice financial gain, and administrators are handily rewarded first, and often without hesitation,” she said.
Although all the classified employees who were laid off were eventually offered the jobs back, McCoy said one employee was rehired in the “Secretary 1” position after previously working as a “Secretary 2.” The move resulted in a $2,000 annual pay cut, which McCoy said would be softened to $700 if she were allowed to advance on the salary steps.
After McCoy finished reading the letter, board member Debbie McBee expressed her appreciation for classified employees, but the board didn’t comment further.
In an interview after the meeting, Lynn Lieuallen, the chair of the board, declined to comment on the letter but echoed McBee’s thought.
“Classified employees are valuable team members of the Pendleton school district,” Lieuallen said in a statement. “We are thankful and appreciative of the work they do each and everyday.”
Lieuallen said she and Superintendent Chris Fritsch would work on an official response later this week.
Fritsch also declined to comment, saying it was out of respect for McCoy and the board.
“I don’t want Teri or anyone else to read an opinion or reaction in the paper before I talk to them in person,” he said.
Contact Antonio Sierra at email@example.com or 541-966-0836.