The logo for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is displayed inside the George A. Navarre Borough Admin Building on Thursday, July 22, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

The logo for the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District is displayed inside the George A. Navarre Borough Admin Building on Thursday, July 22, 2021 in Soldotna, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Voices of the Peninsula: Hard to fill positions?

Paying poverty wages to support staff, secretaries and custodians is unacceptable yet routine behavior by our district

  • Wednesday, May 18, 2022 12:09am
  • Opinion

By David Lefton

Communication is more than words you speak. Behaviors, choices and decisions communicate values, priorities and intentions.

At the May 2, 2022, Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Board of Education meeting, the school district unanimously passed raises for high-level district office administrators. I was appalled by the district’s decision to give central office administrators a raise of 7-11% retroactive for this school year and to see the school board pass it unanimously against community outrage.

For years, teachers and education support staff — the people who actually work in the same room as the students — have been told to tighten their belts and do more with less. This retroactive raise was granted because according to Superintendent Clayton Holland those positions are “hard to fill” and “historically underpaid.”

As we experienced year two in a pandemic in which the district did the bare minimum to support its employees, I find this behavior inconsistent with the mission of KPBSD and must question their priorities. I teach in a small school where our paraprofessional position remained open for the majority of the year. For the second half of the year, our school counselor position was vacant. It was heart-wrenching to watch our students lose learning opportunities without the support they deserve.

It was not district office administrators providing an education throughout the pandemic. They were not doing the jobs of nurses, custodians and food service workers as our staff has throughout the pandemic.

While KPBSD sits on a pile of federal funding and gives more money to those at the top, Superintendent Holland denied raises for school secretaries who have taken on so much additional work during this period. Giving administrators raises while denying raises to secretaries on the front lines illustrates how deep this disconnect is.

Paying poverty wages to support staff, secretaries and custodians is unacceptable yet routine behavior by our district. These employees are the backbone of our schools, and we’re lucky to have them. Many of these employees have worked for the district for decades and could leave for better paying positions but stay out of dedication to the children.

These folks play an integral role in children’s education; I couldn’t do my job without them.

Rising costs and inadequate wages mean people can’t afford to work for our schools. Actions like these demoralize our hardest working employees and further drive the exodus of qualified staff from our district.

If you care about the future of education on the Kenai Peninsula, I encourage you to contact the district and school board because teachers and staff need your support.

David Lefton is a teacher at Homer Flex High School.

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