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Cloquet School Board votes to increase substitute, non-union wages

A motion to increase non-certified substitute and non-union hourly wages for four different positions was passed 4-2 at the Nov. 22 Cloquet School Board meeting.

In an effort to attract more applicants for vacant positions, the Cloquet School Board voted 4-2 in favor of increasing the district’s non-union and substitute wages for maintenance, secretarial, food service and paraprofessional positions at the Nov. 22 meeting.

The hourly wages of each of the four non-certified sub- and non-union positions will start $2 under the starting contract rates for board-approved, union employees. Board-approved, full-time secretaries, for example, currently earn $17.50 per hour. Non-union and non-certified sub secretaries will now earn $15.50 under the increase — up from the previous rate of $12.89.

Cloquet School District business manager Candace Nelis estimated that the wage increase would add an additional $10,000 in expenses to the district budget.

The pay raise comes as the school district tries to remain competitive with a growing number of opportunities to earn higher wages at entry-level positions in various industries, as well as other school districts in the region.

“It seems to be kind of a survival of the fittest situation right now where people have their pick of the places they want to go, and the rates for wages are considerably better than what they’ve been for those entry-level jobs in quite some time,” Superintendent Michael Cary said. “We felt like we need to be more competitive with those entry-level rates if we’re going to continue to get subs.”

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Wages for non-certified subs in 16 districts in the area were also taken into consideration for the increase. Prior to the changes, Cloquet fell below the regional average of the 16 districts in three of the four substitute position wages.
Under the new rates, Cloquet is at the top or approaching the highest wage offerings among the 16 districts in each of the four positions.

The board hopes that higher hourly wages will entice new applicants to fill vacant sub positions, as current staff members have had to fill in to assist in some roles in the absence of available subs.

“It is a regular weekly discussion with our principals, the lack of substitutes that they are able to find and the number of vacant positions they have in buildings everyday,” Cary said.

“It’s not becoming uncommon now for principals to have to sub in classrooms and other places just to make sure that we have things covered,” he added.

The district has made continued attempts to attract applicants with advertisements posted around the city. While the displays have worked to some extent, problems relating to the lack of available subs have continued to persist.

“Over the last year we have taken a much greater number of measures I think to try to communicate our need for subs than what I understand we have historically,” Cary said. “And we have seen a little gain from that, but I wouldn’t say it’s a great level of gain from that.”

Melissa Juntunen, Nate Sandman, Dave Battaglia and Ted Lammi all voted in favor of the non-certified substitute and non-union position wage increases. Gary Huard and Ken Scarbrough voted against the motion.

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The board plans to revisit the effectiveness of the new pay-rate at the second meeting in March 2022.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
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