Monday, October 20, 2014

School board approves $98,500 to be paid out as teacher stipends

By DOUG CARDER, Herald Senior Writer | 2/28/2014

The Ottawa school board this week held to its word.

The school board voted 6-0 to approve a $500 stipend for each licensed teacher in the district for the 2013-2014 school year. The stipend had been part of a contract agreement the school board negotiated last fall with the Ottawa Education Association, which represents the district’s teachers.

When the 2013-2014 teachers contract was finalized in mid-October, Brian Kraus, assistant superintendent for Ottawa schools, recommended that if the district’s audited enrollment numbers hold true for the number of students qualifying for free-and-reduced lunches, the board would give each licensed staff person a $500 stipend as part of the negotiations. The stipend was to be awarded only if the district’s audited enrollment numbers showed 50 percent or more of the student population qualified for free and reduced lunches — dropping below that benchmark could cost the district thousands of dollars in state aid.

“The reason we would like to suggest a stipend instead of anything additional on the base for teachers is because the district is precariously close to dropping below that 50-percent line,” Kraus said in October.

On Monday, Jeanne Stroh, superintendent of Ottawa schools, told school board members the audited numbers were in and it appeared the district would have enough additional money in at-risk funding to cover the $98,500 needed to pay a $500 stipend to each licensed teacher.

David White, school board president, said he was all for the stipend, but wondered if the district should postpone the vote until later this spring to see what the state Legislature was going to do with regard to funding public education.

Stroh said she and her administrative team had crunched the numbers and the at-risk funding should not fluctuate a great deal between now and the end of June. The new school year begins July 1. Any action the Legislature takes this session should not impact the funds available for the 2013-2014 school year, Stroh said.

Brian Kane, school board member, said he was in favor of moving forward with paying the stipend now. The other board members agreed and voted 6-0 to approve $98,500 to be paid out of the at-risk fund to cover the stipends.

Dennis George, school board member, was absent Monday night, but he had endorsed the stipend proposal when it was discussed last fall.

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