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Classified senate challenge

Jennyfer Owensby seeks co-workers' input on pay plans


When Jennyfer Owensby was 12, she won the gold medal in the Kansas Junior Olympics in the 50-meter breast stroke.

Though she is no longer a competitive swimmer, the dedication and work ethic she gained early on will certainly come in handy during the challenging year that lies ahead of her as classified senate president.

Jennyfer OwensbyOwensby just began her term, and she expects it to be filled with work on the new pay plans. She urges her fellow classified employees to get involved with the senate.

"This is the first time in about 25 years that you could really have a voice in how the new pay plans are implemented," Owensby said. "You can have a say in how they evolve."

She spent the last year testifying before the State Employee Compensation Oversight Commission. That work will come to fruition on July 11, when more 900 classified K-State workers will see a 5 percent to 7.5 percent increase in their paychecks as a five-year plan begins to boost wages of those whose salaries have fallen below market.

The percentage increase depends on employees' classifications and how far below market their pay is deemed. Many of K-State's 1,800 classified employees will see no such increase. Statewide, the pay of 76 percent of classified employees is not regarded as below market, so they won't be receiving this "market adjustment," Owensby said.

"The new plans' whole structure is to get people up to market and to recognize work performance," said Owensby, an accountant in the controller's office. The old matrix plan did neither.

The oversight commission will spend the next two years deciding exactly how to incorporate merit-based raises, Owensby said. "They will have to change the evaluation process and many other areas of human resources.

"Some commission members have indicated that they would like us to stay involved with this process," she said. "I am hopeful we will be invited to be a part of the new task force or asked to lend advice to the department of personnel services during the planning phase."

The task force will design the new pay system with the department of personnel services.

This will be Owensby's fourth year with classified senate, and although she doesn't have much free time between working and her presidential responsibilities, she is deeply involved in her sons' summer plans. Photos of Payton, 6, and Joshua, 4, dot her desk in Anderson Hall.

Owensby met her husband, James, when they were students at Manhattan High School. She has worked for the university for more than 18 years: five years as a student and 13 as a full-time employee. Owensby's father-in-law, Clenton Owensby, is a professor of agronomy. Such K-State ties make Owensby all the more eager to see a fair pay plan worked out.

"As the details are ironed out, classified employees should want to have more of a say in what happens," she said. "The legislature has a good plan. If they follow through, this could be one of the best state government plans around." More information about the senate and the new pay plans is at