Rapides school board discusses funding for repairs & renovations, secretary salary schedules

(Credit: KALB)
Published: Jun. 7, 2022 at 3:52 PM CDT|Updated: Jun. 7, 2022 at 10:58 PM CDT
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ALEXANDRIA, La. (KALB) - The Rapides Parish School Board had a packed meeting on Tuesday, June 7, putting into motion actions from this school year and preparations for the upcoming one.

Board members heard more on the District 62 bond, which earned voter approval in April, and will provide $100 million in funding for repairs and renovations in the Bolton, ASH and Peabody feeder systems.

They expect the first $40 million to become available by the end of July.

With the rising cost of infrastructure and materials, they’re hoping to move forward as quickly as possible with the project.

Those rising cost concerns also factored into determining whether the school board would hire an outside architect and operations manager for the project, which would cost an estimated 2.75% of the bond amount.

Those who voiced concern worried about whether there would be enough money left to complete the District 62 projects.

“When you’re working on projects like this, you know, a lot of the fees that are generated are based on percentages of the overall costs,” said Superintendent Jeff Powell. “So, you know that’s stuff that is factored in when you’re going out for these types of bonds. You know you have those amounts worked in. Obviously, with inflation and the price of different materials and supplies coming into play, we did have some flexibility when we worked with our focus groups and the community and our administrators on what projects were priority. So, the good thing about getting this program management firm in here is they’re going to help us identify those priorities and timelines to get things in and try to get started on these as quickly as possible, and understanding that if the prices continue to go up in some areas, we may have to make some tough decisions about what our priorities are.”

Ultimately, the decision was made to approve an outside firm, CSRS, to oversee the projects as the “eyes and ears” for project efficiency and completion.

Board member Sandra Franklin emphasized the expectation of truth and transparency from the firm, explaining how the district would be relying on them to make sure everything gets done.

The board went on to take up a measure regarding school secretary schedules.

Currently, RPSB is working with LEAN Frog to review salaries among all positions on a salary schedule, evaluating whether or not they are underpaying compared to other school systems in the area and other school systems of similar size across the state.

Those results are supposed to be made available by September at the latest.

However, some members of the board decided to take action specifically on secretary salary schedules tonight, rather than waiting on the study results. Right now, secretaries operate on a 25-step salary schedule, meaning once they reach their 25th year, salary increases stop, regardless of if they continue in the position. Member Wilton Barrios made a substitute motion to adjust that schedule from 25-steps to 40-steps, meaning the salary increases will continue up to 40 years in a secretary’s career.

Several members of the public voiced their opinions on the motion. One explained how his secretary had not had a pay increase in eight years.

On the other hand, one member of the public expressed how he did not know of any secretary who would have worked 40 years, and another member suggested pay was the issue, not the schedule.

However, the motion to increase a secretary’s salary schedule to 40 years passed, though the board is still waiting on results from the LEAN Frog to evaluate all other salary-based staff members.

The board also discussed school safety and security investments. Superintendent Jeff Powell said they ran through scenarios and discussed some new ideas for ways to improve.

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