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Carlton School Board seats new members, disagrees on board compensation

Carlton School Board seated new members Susan Karp and Jeremy "Sam" Ojibway at the meeting Thursday, Jan. 10. Pictured from left: LaRae Lehto, Tim Hagenah, Jeremy “Sam” Ojibway, Susan Karp, Jennifer Chmielewski and Ann Gustafson. Andee Erickson / Pine Journal

Carlton School Board swore in new board members Ann Gustafson and Jeremy “Sam” Ojibway at a special meeting Thursday, Jan. 10, along with Susan Karp, who is starting her second term.

With two nominations for chairman, the board voted 4-2 in favor of LaRae Lehto over newcomer Gustafson. The board voted unanimously for Gustafson to serve as vice chairman, Karp as clerk and Tim Hagenah to continue as treasurer.

The new board spent its organizational meeting appointing members to committees, setting meeting dates and voting on matters that relate to school board operations, such as how much to compensate board members.

Board members remained divided on whether or not to increase compensation slightly, or keep it the same, after Jennifer Chmielewski proposed a raise.

“If other people (in administration) are getting a 1 percent raise and that's kind of the going rate, I'm willing to propose that,” Chmielewski said.

Since 2000, officers have received $1,000 per year for serving on the board, while all other board members didn’t start receiving that much until 2015. Prior to that, they were compensated $800 per year. Meanwhile, all board members have always received an additional $37.50 per board meeting.

Gustafson agreed with Chmielewski’s proposal to increase the entire board’s compensation, as well as the rate per meeting, by 1 percent.

“I know all of us aren't here for the paycheck, that's for sure, but I do think a 1 percent (increase) just to keep it on par is completely fair. I think public officials are definitely underappreciated, and do it for the right reasons,” Gustafson said, “but that doesn't mean they shouldn't receive compensation.”

Hagenah, who feels more comfortable minimizing the cost of his service, disagreed.

“I didn't get on this board to try to make money,” Hagenah said. “I got on this board to try to make a difference within the district, and especially with the kids.”

Chmielewski’s proposal failed 3-3, while she, Gustafson and Karp voted in favor. Lehto’s proposal to keep compensation as it stands also failed 3-3. The board voted to keep compensation as is under the condition it revisit other options in the Committee of the Whole meeting Monday, Jan. 14.

On Monday, board members conceded that they could come to a compromise by leaving the salary and per-meeting rate as they both stand, while adding compensation for School Board trainings and the Minnesota School Board Association Conference. However, the board still has to vote on the matter at the Jan. 28 general meeting.

Regular board meetings will continue to be the third Monday of every month at 7 p.m. in the Carlton High School library, with the exception of the Jan. 28 and Feb. 25 meetings.

Andee Erickson

Andee Erickson has been a reporter with the Pine Journal since November 2018. She studied journalism and geography at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, while working at the Leader-Telegram newspaper on weekends. She graduated in 2018. Erickson's from southern Minnesota, but started viewing the north as home after interning for the Duluth News Tribune in the summer of 2017.