On a 4-1 vote, the board decided Monday, Oct. 25, to discontinue benefits for those newly elected or appointed to the board, while members currently enrolled in benefits will retain coverage through 2022.
Tom Haglin voted against the measure, worrying about discouraging potential quality board candidates who might need the benefits.
“If I were to hazard a guess on our school district in terms of people that have access to health insurance, it’s probably not a super high number based on what we know about our own students from an income and socioeconomic perspective,” Haglin said.
Charles Black Lance, however, said health and dental benefits for school board members are not something needed in this day and age, and he would rather see as much money as possible be kept in the classrooms. Since beginning to serve on the board in 2019, Black Lance has been vocal about reducing board member benefits.
“I think it’s time that we looked at moving forward with a different approach and a different expectation that if somebody is going to become part of the board that they’re here to serve students and not here to get a benefit,” Black Lance said, noting he was not even aware of the benefits when he ran for the school board.
Along with the option of health and dental insurance, board members receive a yearly stipend of $4,200.
Kevin Boyles fell in the middle, understanding concerns from both Haglin and Black Lance but noting the board plans to revisit the benefits package in January, during which time members could discuss an increase in the stipend amount to potentially cover health insurance costs for those who need it.
Board Chair Ruth Nelson agreed, saying board members should be compensated for their time and was on board with discussing alterations to the benefits package in January.
Black Lance said he could not be OK with anything higher than a cost of living increase, again noting any money spent on board members is money taken away from students.
“I have to go home — and not to dramatize this — but look at my three kids and the offerings that they have and the offerings that they don’t have,” Black Lance said. “And I can’t sit by and be OK with us as a board to receive anything more than we get in terms of benefits.”
Nelson and board member Jana Shogren both said they do not see the stipend increasing enough to fully cover health insurance costs.
Everyone except for Haglin voted to get rid of the health and dental benefits.
In other business Monday, the school board:
Authorized new hires: Amber Endres, special education teacher at Riverside Elementary; Stacy Littman and Susan Rioux, districtwide substitute teachers; Leanne Bock, behavior management specialist at Riverside; Destiny Fascone, early childhood and prekindergarten plus program assistant at Nisswa Elementary; Adam Jensen and Gretchen Paysee, athletic officials at Forestview Middle School; Kathryn Roberts, special education paraprofessional at Garfield Elementary; Abbey Rushmeyer, health services secretary at Brainerd High School; and Rilee Borders and Francisco Hernandez, districtwide child care program assistants.
Accepted a donation of 300 books, valued at $2,100, from Finding My Way Books for classroom use throughout the district.
Scheduled a special board meeting for noon Dec. 6 to discuss audit results.