UPDATE: This story has been updated to correct two errors. At its April 9 meeting, the Fargo School Board did not discuss changes to teacher, staff and administration pay. The board also discussed, but did not take action on, the issue of allowing guns in schools.
FARGO — At a regular Fargo School Board meeting on Tuesday, April 9, board members voted unanimously to pro-rate Superintendent Rupak Gandhi’s salary increase to $210,000, effective May 1, as part of his contract renewal.
The two recommendations were given by a three-member committee, which was created to review the terms of his two-year contract.
The board did approve an extended contract to Gandhi, lasting from July 1, 2019, through June 30, 2021, with a salary of $210,000, plus a percentage increase as determined by the board, following negotiations with the Fargo Education Association, according to AnnMarie Campbell, who is the executive assistant to the superintendent.
Gandhi, a California native, was hired at a salary of $200,000, but will soon complete his doctorate degree. He will defend his dissertation on Wednesday, April 10, and is expected to graduate from his program on May 11. The committee suggested his increase in education warranted a $10,000 raise.
Board member Jim Johnson was the first to call criticism to the second recommendation. He proposed an amendment, which was approved unanimously, to keep the $10,000 salary increase but strike the rest of the language.
“Negotiations involving the teachers should be completely separate from the administration,” board member David Paulson said. “Tying the two together is not necessarily the correct way to do it.”
Gandhi oversees a staff of 3,400 employees in the district that has 11,300 students.
Along with Gandhi’s salary increase, human resources is accepting the resignations of Chelsey Schmitz, a music teacher at Lewis and Clark, and Bailey Peterson, first grade teacher at McKinley, both effective May 31, 2019.
Also at the meeting, an update was given on the ongoing initiative to decrease dropout rates and help at-risk youth.
Brad Franklin, principal of Jefferson Elementary, said the initiative helps students through community outreach and improved communication within families.
He narrowed the focus areas down to social health, nutrition and mental health of students, which could be improved through after-school programs, as well as case managers assigned to families where needed.
Susan Peterson, a Reading Recovery teacher, spoke of the reading program’s success in past years.
Reading Recovery is an individualized learning experience implemented in first grade to help children become successful at reading and writing.
“It’s been a program in the U.S. for 30 years. The research shows its effectiveness for the lowest achieving students in first grade,” Peterson said.
She said first graders are given a series of reading assessments at the beginning of the school year in order to assess the lowest literacy achievers.
The board also discussed a resurrected bill that would allow guns in schools. Several members noted an array of complications that could arise as a result, including insurance liabilities.
The next regular school board meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, April 23.