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Lakeland Union High School approves employee pay during shutdown

April 17, 2020 by Kayla Houp

The Lakeland Union School District Board of Education approved a motion Monday regarding employee pay during the mandatory school shutdown put into effect March 18.

“The motion is to continue to regulate pay to hourly employees based on the regular school institution calendar from March 16 to April 15, 2020, or until the emergency is lifted, whichever is sooner,” board member Pam Carroll said.

Once the motion was on the floor, board member Barry Seidel stated he wanted to amend the motion to include all employees.

“I don’t know why it would be just one subgroup,” Seidel said. 

According to Carroll, only the hourly employees would be impacted by the situation.

“I guess my point is, why do we have to make a distinction between hourly employees and the rest of the employees,” Seidel said. “The purpose is to pay them through April 15. Why not just make it all employees, period?”

Board member Shari Nimsgern said teachers were getting paid because of their contracts and would have to make up the time later.

“Is there anybody that we’re not paying? So why can’t we just make it all employees to make it simple?” Seidel asked.

While the motion to approve payment for permanent hourly employees used April 15, Carroll said the board would have to meet again if there needed to be an extension.

“I think there’s a difference between exempt and non-exempt employees, so we’re making a decision now to pay our non-exempt employees,” board member Gary Smith said.

“The ones in question are the hourly employees,” Carroll said.

Seidel asked if the intent of the board was to pay all of the school’s employees, then why not use that language in the motion.

He also asked what the plan was for employees that didn’t fit into a specific sub-category that weren’t represented.

“I think we can just focus on the hourly, that’s my understanding,” district administrator and curriculum director Rob Way said. 

“Any part-time, or anything like that, it’s my understanding that they are to go on unemployment,” Nimsgern said.

Seidel disagreed, stating the importance of retaining employees and made a motion to amend the motion that was denied.

The question of the rationale behind focusing on hourly employees was raised.

“The question was, originally, that the hourly employees were the only ones that were going to be affected by the paid or not paid, exempt or non-exempt,” Carroll explained. “All the other ones are contracted employees that are going to continue to get paid as normal.”

“This is an extraordinary circumstance. We have emergency measures and a lot of people are worried about their jobs,” Seidel said. “Why not just clarify and say all people? I don’t think it’s really that far of a stretch. It’s what we want to do, anyway.”

Nimsgern said the contracted employees were getting paid, and the board was there to approve paying the permanent hourly employees.

Following the approval of the motion to pay permanent hourly employees, Seidel raised a second motion which extended the language in the initial motion to cover all employees.

“It’s not just the teachers, it’s anybody that might fall through the cracks,” Seidel said. “I’m just trying to be comprehensive to make sure that we cover all the employees.”

“We took care of the permanent part-time and the permanent hourly,” Nimsgern said.

“Is there anyone that could fall through the cracks?” board member Gary Smith asked.

“Not that I’m aware of,” Way said.

Kopp said while he wasn’t sure if it was the case, there was a possibility there were some “salary positions that are considered exempt, just like hourly.”

“All it is that we’re guaranteeing to them that nothing’s going to happen to their pay going forward,” Seidel said. 

“The teachers, at this point, they don’t have to make anything up, because, at this point, they’re supposed to be at home working,” Kopp said. “We anticipate that to continue. If that continues, there’s nothing for that group to make up.”

He continued, stating salaried positions considered exempt from overtime would be paid their full salary. 

“That’s what exempt is. It’s not tied at all to how much they work in any given week, it’s tied to them getting the job done, and that could take one hour one week, it could take 60 hours the next week,” Kopp said. “We will anticipate that all salaried staff are going to be available at any point for anything that we need them to do, and we anticipate that they’re all going to work at least an hour a week.”

When called to a vote, Seidel’s motion was defeated in a 4-4 vote, with Seidel, Smith, and board members Barb Peck and Jon Berg in favor of extending the approved motion’s language to include all school employees. Board members voting in opposition to Seidel’s motion were Carroll, Nimsgern, Sarah Kemp, and Ed Schaub.

Kayla Houp may be reached via email at [email protected]

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