Three percent pay raise approved for Hopi teachers

Raise also applies to counselors and librarian; school board looks at other funding sources

POLACCA, Ariz. — The Hopi Jr/Sr High School Governing Board voted to approve a three percent pay raise for teachers during a recent school board meeting.

The vote followed a 90-minute debate on whether to give the teachers the three percent raise or their step on the salary career ladder. Four members voted for the pay raise, one member voted against it and one was absent.

The substance abuse counselors, academic counselors and librarian will also receive the three percent raise.

HJSHS Governing Board President Valerie Kooyaquaptewa, Clerk Sandra Dennis, Anita Bahnimptewa and Melvin Pooyouma voted for the pay raise. Vice President Laurel Poleyestewa voted against the measure and Jack Harding was absent. 

Poleyestewa questioned several measures in the budget.

“Everybody should be aware of how much there is in each area,” she said.

She said GATE (Gifted and Talented) had different funds in three areas of the junior high budget: One for $79,349, one for $3,000 and one for $3,500.

She questioned what the $143,480 in Title One covered. Poleyestewa was also concerned that some teachers were maxed out on the salary scale and would not get the raise. She questioned whether the principals had seen the budget. 

Patrick Secakuku, business manager, said the budgets had been departmentalized and each department manager created their own budgets to cover their department’s travel, supplies and other expenses.

Hopi Junior High Principal Alban Naha, who just took the position last year, said he was not aware of the $79,000 for GATE. He said he was given a template for the 2017-2018 school year budget including for GATE. He said the budget for GATE was nowhere near $79,000. He also said when cuts were needed that he cut the amounts across the board. 

Naha said the issue is how the GATE funds are tied into the overall budget. 

Hopi High Principal Lynn Fredericks said there was nothing in her budget for GATE, but she believes the GATE funding all came out of high school funds. 

Secakuku said he was not sure how the $79,000 figure came into the junior high budget.

Poleyestewa said it feels like everything is in one pot. She said everything should be for the students, but “they seem to be the last one.” 

Secakuku said they can work with the two principals to allocate funds to GATE and other programs. He said prior to departmentalizing the budget it was easier for the BIE to read the budget. He said that will be left up to the superintendent and business manager to decide in the future. He said 75-80 percent of the school’s budget goes to salaries. 

Kooyaquaptewa said it remains up to the department managers to determine what people they need in their department. 

“We approved a salary increase so now we have to figure out what we need and move on. We have to give out contracts,” she said.

Secakuku said the department managers did a good job of formulating their budgets. 

Secakuku said the Hopi Jr/Sr High School budget ranges from $11.6 million to $12 million each year. He said it was $11.6 million last school year.

Naha said it would be good to see who has what.

 He said the budget should be based on what the school is doing. He said the budget was not communicated to the superintendent or principals this past school year. 

Poleyestewa said $72,910 was paid for stipends for coaches at the high school and $31,000 in stipends for coaches at the junior high. She said the focus has been on raises and stipends.

“When will we focus on the students?” she asked. 

Fredericks said the leadership team at Hopi Jr/Sr High School was able to see the funds that went for salaries and benefits. She said this showed the leadership team that the school does not have unlimited funds. She said the budget should be determined from the school goals. She said if funds are going to be paid for professional development that it should be tied to school goals.

Fredericks said the budget should not just come from the principals and business manager. She said the teachers should also know where the funding comes from.

“I want to make sure it’s done right,” she said. 

Secakuku said that is why the school has annual audits. 

“Our revenue and surplus have been healthy,” he said. 

Poleyestewa said she asked the special education department for justification for the amount of workers in that department and never received an answer. She said that transportation and cafeteria are looking at downsizing their staff. 

“What do we do to bring in more students?” she asked since the school’s funding is based on the student count. 

Hopi Jr/Sr High School has had about 465 students for the past two school years. 

Kooyaquaptewa said they can act like other schools and drive into their districts. She said Tuba City and Holbrook drive buses into the Hopi area for students. Secakuku said that would put more pressure on the principals to screen for good students. 

Hopi High also recently held its academic awards banquet. 

Daryl Domingo, a junior honors student, gave a heart-warming speech about English teacher Blue Jirak. Domingo said that Jirak is a remarkable teacher who was treated badly by students.

“My award shows that his work is not going down the drain,” he said. “Most teachers are here for us. This is my way of showing all my teachers, especially Mr. Jirak, that my work is not going down the drain.”

Domingo said that he appreciates that Jirak nominated him for a leadership award.

“It hits me in the heart that he cares that much,” he said.

Principal Fredericks said that she appreciates the countless hours that all the teachers work. 

“Nobody is here for the paycheck. 

“We do not get into education for that,” he said. 

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