School Board phases in Thornton’s raise

Published 12:58 pm Wednesday, June 14, 2017

By Ryan Kushner

Staff writer

Isle of Wight County schools Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton asked for a $18,000 raise, and after a month of negotiation, the Isle of Wight County School Board voted 3-1 to give it to him — but spread out over four years.

The first year Thornton’s salary will go up 6.9 percent, from $145,350 to $155,524.

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His salary will then increase by 2 percent the remaining three years of his contract.

In addition to the salary increase, Thornton had asked for $5,000 in deferred earnings, at the beginning of May. The board agreed to $6,500 in an annuity{mprestriction ids=”1,2,3,4,5,6″}

Thornton will continue to receive a car, computer, iPad and up to $10,000 each year for professional development, amenities that were also provided in his previous contract with the division. 

School Board Chairman Alvin Wilson cast the only dissenting vote. Carrsville District Representative Jackie Carr was absent due to a death in the family.

School Board Smithfield District Representative Kirstin Cook spoke in favor of the boost for the superintendent prior to the vote Thursday, citing improving facilities and an exciting vision for the schools.

She also said that compared to divisions of similar sizes, including Dinwiddie, Hopewell, Culpeper, Gloucester, and Prince George, Thornton has the most years of experience as a superintendent, but had been next to last in terms of salary.

Isle of Wight County schools had 5,504 students this year.

The superintendent of Dinwiddie County Schools, which has 4,400 students, made $136,200 this past fiscal year, and the superintendent of Hopewell schools, with a student population of 4,000, made a salary of $156,000. In Culpeper County, which hosts roughly 8,200 students, the superintendent made $183,214, and in Gloucester County Schools, with a population of 5,500 students, the superintendent made $155,869. The superintendent of Prince George County, with a student population of 6,446, made $169,100.

Thornton ranks 12th in salary amount when compared with superintendents of the surrounding 15 Region II districts, according to Cook. This is not accounting for student population or division size.

“Whatever percentage that one group gets, I want that percentage to be enjoyed by all groups,” Wilson said, in explaining his “no” vote for the package.

The gap between the salary of administrators and lower level personnel “just continues to grow” with this vote, Wilson added.

The School Board announced in late May that it would be readjusting its pay scale for teachers, which, with aid from the state, would result in between a 2 percent and 7.2 percent raise for all instructors in the division, scheduled to begin this February.

Asked why the Board didn’t wait until the division’s SOL scores from the 2016-17 school year were made known before approving a raise for the superintendent, School Board Vice Chair and Newport District Supervisor Vicky Hulick said it worked better for the budget to decide on the contract now, before the fiscal year begins in July.

“It is cleaner like that,” said Hulick.

Thornton’s previous contract was not scheduled to expire until June 30, 2018.

“I don’t believe that SOL scores are the ‘end all, be-all’,” Hulick added. “And they’re not the only measure of what goes on in our schools.

“Our schools look better, our students are happy, our teachers are happy, and to me that’s much more important than one test, one day,” said Hulick.

Since coming to Isle of Wight County, Thornton has instituted project-based learning, as well as a new in-county Career and Technical Education program slated to begin in the fall.

At his previous position as superintendent at Mecklenburg County Public Schools, where he served for five years, Thornton made $125,000.  {/mprestriction}