116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
CEDAR RAPIDS — Secretaries in the Cedar Rapids Community School District are continuing to advocate for a larger pay increase in the future after receiving a 75-cent-an-hour increase for the 2022-23 academic year.
The employees who work at various schools have been showing up to speak over the last few months at Cedar Rapids school board meetings to “lay the groundwork” for another raise in the future, said Kate Hogg, president of the secretary bargaining unit and media secretary at Cedar River Academy, 720 Seventh Ave. SW.
“We’re in it for the long haul to make our schools the best they can be by being the best secretaries we can be,” Hogg said.
In the negotiations for the secretary bargaining group for the 2022-23 school year, the team accepted a two-year contract with a minimum salary of either $15 or a $1.50 hourly increase — 75 cents now and an additional 75 cents the next year — whichever is greater. This was the highest increase during the last five years.
Secretaries “are the heart of the building and support our students, staff and community in a number of ways,” said Linda Noggle, Cedar Rapids schools executive director of talent management. “They are a valuable member of the team at our buildings and (the Educational Leadership and Support Center). If you need anything, you can always count on one of our secretaries to help and assist you.”
School districts receive funding from Supplemental State Aid, the amount of state funding received based on enrollment. This funding then determines wages, Noggle said in an email.
The Cedar Rapids school district “has historically passed along all of the new money to our employees,” Noggle said. “This year for the secretaries and other work groups we provided the new money plus additional funding.” Employees also receive benefits from Iowa Public Employees' Retirement System, health insurance, sick leave, paid time off and educational credits.
There are about 139 secretaries in the district, including building secretaries, health secretaries, attendance secretaries, media secretaries and counselor secretaries.
As a media secretary, Hogg manages the library, technology services and helps with the waste management program by helping students sort recycling and compost and oversees students during lunch and recess. She also is a crossing guard in the beginning and end of the day, webmaster for the school, substitute paraeducator and has her substitute teacher’s license.
All these roles are “pretty typical” for elementary secretaries who “wear a lot of hats,” Hogg said.
In previous years, the secretary bargaining unit received 5 to 10 cent wage increases through negotiations, Hogg said.
They were inspired by paraeducators who received a $3 an hour pay increase last year after advocating for raises at school board meetings, Hogg said.
Tracy Spicer-Ehrman, also a board member for the secretary bargaining unit and principal secretary at Nixon Elementary School, started making about $14 an hour. Twelve years later, she makes $17.50 as a school secretary.
Spicer-Ehrman helps with student attendance, accounting, interacts with parents, students and the public who stop by Nixon Elementary and has even unclogged toilets when the custodian was busy elsewhere, she said.
Spicer-Ehrman said she fought with paras to receive a pay increase last year because what they were making was “terrible” and offensive,“ she said. Now, she’s advocating for herself.
“All of us love what we do,” Spicer-Ehrman said. “But our job has continued to increase and more is expected of us. It’s long past time we be compensated for it.”
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