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Lawrence school board to hear report on retention and recruitment of district employees

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The Lawrence school board on Monday will hear a report on the district’s goal to recruit and retain employees at higher rates as dozens of positions sit open.

Human Resources staff members are scheduled to provide a report on their “efforts to recruit, develop, support, and retain a talented and diverse staff,” according to Monday’s meeting agenda. The current numbers of classified staff and vacancies will be shared as part of the report.

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PAL-CWA, the district’s union for classified staff, held a demonstration Wednesday during the Lawrence High School homecoming parade to voice frustrations with low wages and understaffing. Classified staff members, including food service workers, paraeducators and more, carried signs bearing sentiments such as “We love our students, pay us a living wage” and “Classified staff keep our schools running.”

Though PAL-CWA had been pushing for all members to be paid $15 per hour, the board in June ultimately approved a contract agreement with the union raising classified staff’s base salary pay from $9.43 to $9.70 per hour for the 2022-23 school year.

In Douglas County, a living wage for a single adult with no children in the household is $17.07.

There are currently more than 70 open classified staff positions within the district. Amid recruitment efforts, the district has been unable to fill those positions and attendance at classified staff recruitment fairs has been consistently low, district spokesperson Julie Boyle said via email.

“Staffing vacancies are not tracked over time by the HR system. The number of vacancies fluctuate due to classified staff turnover and changes in student needs and our buildings’ plans for meeting student needs,” Boyle said via email. “Much like other employers, the district continues to face challenges filling openings due to a national labor shortage.”

The Lawrence school district this year used federal COVID-19 relief funds (ESSER) to double incentive pay from last year’s levels, making employees eligible during the 2022-23 school year for three $1,000 incentive payments based on continued employment, Boyle said.

The district has also used ESSER funds to provide classified staff with free early childhood services for their 3- and 4-year-old children during the normal school day.

Boyle said PAL-CWA members were invited, and members of the Lawrence Education Association (LEA), the district’s teachers union, are participating in the new Futures Planning Committee as part of its partnership with RSP & Associates consulting firm. At the last meeting, Boyle said, committee members “brainstormed financial goals, including discussion of improving staff salaries and working conditions given the district’s limited financial resources.”

No presentation materials for HR’s report were provided in the agenda as of noon Sunday.

To conclude Monday’s meeting, the board will hold a closed-door executive session.

The meeting will begin at 6 p.m. Monday, Sept. 26 at district offices, 110 McDonald Drive. Meetings are open to the public, livestreamed on the district’s YouTube channel and broadcast on Midco channel 26. Full meeting agendas are available at this link.

To give public comment virtually during the board meeting, email PublicComment@usd497.org by 6 p.m. on the day of the meeting to sign up to participate by Webex video/phone conferencing.

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Maya Hodison (she/her), equity reporter, can be reached at mhodison (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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