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Grand Forks School Board cuts members' salaries

Grand Forks School Board members voted unanimously on Monday to cut their individual compensation by $500 in light of budgetary problems the school district faces in the coming year.

Meggen Sande made the motion, which Dr. Eric Lunn seconded, to reduce annual pay to $3,500 per member and to $4,000 for the president.

"With everything we're going through with teacher (contract) negotiations," she said she felt such a move was necessary.

Sande suggested the board could review the policy change next year, "and raise it back up if things look better."

School Board members also heard a report from the district's demographer, Robert Schwarz, projecting that enrollment would increase by 3 percent in the next five years and outlining areas of growth in the city, factors that influence that growth and schools' capacity.

Schwarz, a principal planner with the firm RSP Associates of Overland Park, Kan., is preparing documents for the district's demographic study, to be presented to the public in January, and a master facilities plan with the JLG architectural firm.

In other action, board members elected Doug Carpenter to continue as president and Eric Burin as vice president.

During a session reserved for public comment on items that were not on the agenda, Tina Randle, of Reynolds, N.D., spoke about her son, Jonathan Black, a sophomore at Central High School, who died by suicide in April.

"He was sick with a disease many thought should be kept quiet," she said. "We have to change this."

"Teachers are not educated in mental health issues," she told the board, adding that her son "did not have the support of some of the school officials. Why? Because they didn't have the tools."

After the regular meeting, the board met in closed session to discuss a report released by the commission charged with reviewing and making recommendations to resolve the impasse in Grand Forks teacher contract negotiations.

The board considered its negotiation strategy and provided instruction to its members who serve on the board's negotiating team.

Results of the closed session were unavailable at press time.

In its report, released Friday, the North Dakota Education Fact Finding Commission recommended that the board issue one-year, rather than the usual two-year contracts, to teachers, and provide a $1,000 a year raise to returning full-time teachers for the 2017-18 school year.

The board had proposed a salary freeze. The Grand Forks Education Association proposed a 5 percent increase for 2017-18 and three percent raise for the following year.

The commission also recommended that committees be formed to study two other issues that emerged as sticking points in contract negotiations this spring: maternity leave and preparation time for elementary teachers.