I am here to support you. That was the message RE-1 Valley Acting Superintendent Dr. Martin Foster had for staff during a welcome meeting Wednesday morning.
“It’s just wonderful to be back here with you, I can’t tell you what it means to me to see you. My presence here is surreal,” said Foster, who was greeted with a salvo applause and cheers when it was introduced.
He told staff: ‘I know you’ve been through a tough time, COVID on top of everything else, you’ve had a lot of people gone, some of them retired, a lot of them have just moved elsewhere. We have to change that, I remember the good old days, when I arrived here in 1986 nobody left, you had a career here and that’s what needs to be established. We have to put that back in place; we need to have something in place for our school district where you feel good to be here.
His comments were greeted with a huge round of applause.
Foster addressed what he called the biggest challenge currently facing RE-1, salary grids and contracts.
“I’ve never really seen anything like it, but it’s okay, we can fix it,” he said, telling staff he planned to put schedules back in place, like what RE-1 had. a few years ago before COVID. “From there, we will work to find a place where you are on this salary scale, whether it is correct or incorrect. I know we have several years here where a lot of people have been frozen we will try to fix all of this we have problems with columns and steps we have people with bachelor’s degrees who are in the column of the master, this is probably the biggest problem.
The certified pay scale was adjusted to improve the base pay for employees, however, how people were placed on the schedule was complicated because so many lanes were eliminated. In some cases, bachelor’s degree holders were placed on the master’s track to compensate for what they previously earned with a bachelor’s degree and their many years of service.
Marybeth Skerjanec, co-chair of the South Platte Education Association, also made remarks and touched on salaries.
“It’s been two long years, but we’re starting to see some light and we’re starting to see some transparency and we’re getting real collaboration with the administration and our school board,” she said.
Skerjanec said she had dealt with many employees this summer who were frustrated with the pay scale.
“I can’t tell you how much work we’ve done to look at the options available to us to repair what has been badly damaged. It’s not going to be quick and it’s going to be easy and I need you to be patient,’ she told staff.
Right now, the top priority is setting the salary scale for certified staff, “because that’s the one that’s most potentially the most disastrous.” But we have worked hard and I think we have taken a big step forward.
Foster promised to work very closely with Skerjanec and said: “We are going to make huge strides in getting things done this year.
He concluded his remarks by telling the staff how important they are.
“My message today is simply this, whether you are a teacher, administrator, classified personnel, I cannot tell you how important you are. I appreciate you, I appreciate you,” he said. “I’m here to help you, I’m here to support you, I don’t want you to forget that and as we enter this year. Yes, there will be some hiccups, I understand that. Yeah, there had some big misfires, I get that, but you know what, water under bridges can’t be changed. What we can do is change where we are right now and every day that we let’s move on.
“I just want to encourage you, as we enter this school year, to do your best. There is nothing more important than what you do, nothing,” Foster told staff.
At the end of his speech, the entire staff closed the day with a big congratulations of “We are going to have a good year!
Earlier in the meeting, staff heard from school board chair Steve Shinn, who thanked them for their patience as the district embarked on many changes.
“With the changes there are obviously challenges and I know some of them have created difficulties for you and we are aware of that, we are doing our best to minimize the consequences and make our system more user-friendly,” Shinn said, adding “we continue our efforts to improve the educational experiences of our students, their families, and all of you who will be representing RE-1 this coming year.”
His remarks were followed by a message from Bank of Colorado Regional President Steve Meier and six gift cards from the bank.
“We say thank you for helping to shape our children, our grandchildren and from a community perspective, know that community businesses are here to support you and help you when we can,” Meier told the personal.
After the gifts, the directors took turns introducing their new staff. While some buildings are fully staffed, others still have a few vacancies. Sterling High School needs two or three more paras, Sterling Middle School needs two ESL (English as a Second Language) paras, and Mike Manuello, Director of Maintenance and Transportation, has asked for patience as his department is not “not even close” to being complete.
During the introductions, Elizabeth Mauler, director of student services, explained that due to hiring issues, her department had to look elsewhere for providers to fill some of the special education roles this year.
“It’s not the best practice for kids and we know that, but in order for us to continue to be really compliant and what the law requires us to do, we’ve had to outsource some services,” said Mauler.
To that end, the district has hired a virtual special education teacher for RE-1’s Six12Online program, a virtual social worker, and a visually impaired teacher who is under contract with the Colorado School of the Deaf and Blind and will be a hybrid model. , which means she will be in the district in person for a few days each semester and the rest of her services will be virtual.
Foster also asked staff to support the business office as the accounting and payroll staff are brand new, “it’s a job you wouldn’t believe these guys are tackling and they’re doing a great job. work,” he said. Chief Financial Officer David Portenier thanked former Chief Financial Officers Deb County and Luke Janes for helping show his office what best practices are.
Skerjanec also presented the Frances Gillespie Excellence Award to Meri Vickers, a second grade teacher who retired at the end of last school year after 31 years in RE-1. She read several comments from the Vickers nominating group, they described her as unforgettable and irreplaceable and explained how she emailed and texted with encouraging messages and always encouraged team interaction during meetings. staff development days or after school.
“Ms. Vickers has proven herself to be a dedicated educator, constantly working to improve our teaching community and contributing to the home of our students,” Skerjanec read. “She continually contributes her thoughts and wisdom to the improvement of our students and the district as a whole.
Upon accepting the award, she recalled looking in awe at other winners of this award during her career and said that at that time she aspired to be the best every day.
“I feel humbled and grateful to be here in front of you,” Vickers said, offering some advice to those still in the field, “keep teaching, one good day makes up for several tough ones.”
“Please keep fighting for your children, make the tough decisions, love them, guide them and remember to teach them how to think, not what to think,” she told the RE-1 staff.
Following his remarks, RE-1 music teachers performed “Don’t Give Up On Me” and “(It’s Gonna Be) Okay” and recognized years of service to the district, from those just starting out through 43 years old in RE. -1.
The day also included a health fair provided by Sterling Regional MedCenter and breakfast burritos and donuts provided and served by SRM, Bank of Colorado and RE-1 Valley Food Service.