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Helmut Schmidt, Published September 12 2007

Raises lacking support

Three separate votes calling to raise the salaries of Fargo School Board members failed at the group’s meeting Tuesday night.

Measures by Paul Meyers, Dan Fremling and Jim Johnson failed to gain enough support to pass as board members struggled with whether a raise was warranted, how much it should be and when would it take effect.

“We’re probably not at the right amount,” said Meyers, who added that board members’ work at least equals that of Cass County commissioners, who receive $1,529 a month, more than twice the $750 per month School Board members earn.

“I do think times have changed,” Fremling said. “If you look at what our responsibilities are for educating the kids in our community … it’s not any less” than other officials.

Other salaries board members used for comparison included Fargo city commissioners at $1,714 a month, Moorhead councilmen at $851 a month and Clay County commissioners at $1,999 a month. Some of those positions also get health and other benefits, board members said.

Meyers originally suggested the board raise its pay to match what Fargo commissioners are paid. But prodding by Johnson and others cut the request to $12,000 per year.

Johnson argued any raises should be modest and not take effect until July, after the next election.

“I have a hard time with huge jumps,” he said. “Getting to parity doesn’t have to happen in one day.”

Meyers’ motion for $12,000 in annual pay failed on a 4-4 tie.

Fremling’s motion for a $150 a month raise failed on a 3 to 5 vote. Johnson’s motion for a $250 delayed monthly raise also failed 3 to 5.

Board President Robin Nelson said board pay would be discussed at the next meeting. She added she would like to see any motion include two readings for public comment on any proposed pay hike.

In other business, the board:

- Voted unanimously to have administrators begin the process of putting the former high school site just north of 52nd Avenue South on the market.

- Reviewed the timeline for naming a planned new high school in far south Fargo.

Suggestions for names are now being solicited from students, staff and teachers.

Ads are also being placed in The Forum and district publications asking for suggestions from the community.

The district will stop taking submissions at 5 p.m. Oct. 15. The board plans to decide on a name at either its Oct. 23 meeting – tentatively slated for Discovery Middle School – or at an Oct. 30 retreat.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Helmut Schmidt at (701) 241-5583