IW board approves pay scale

Published 6:04 pm Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Isle of Wight’s School Board at its Dec. 10 meeting approved a new teacher salary pay scale for the 2021-2022 academic year, but discussion about giving all school division staff 2% raises will be revisited next month.

Under the new scale, a teacher with a bachelor’s degree but no prior work experience will receive an annual salary of $44,500 for the 2021-2022 year, up $500 from the 2020-2021 year. But board members balked at moving forward with 2% across-the-board raises for all staff, citing the ongoing uncertainty that the coronavirus pandemic is having on decisions about every aspect of life, especially money.

If there’s a silver living in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, it’s that the federal and state government has provided millions of dollars in funding to public schools in order to sustain and enhance education. As a result, Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton told the board, there’s money available now for raises that wasn’t available when the current budget was set.

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“I’m not against raises for our employees,” Jackie Carr, the board’s chairwoman, said. “The challenges that our employees have dealt with this year and that are to come are tremendous. I’m just not convinced that a 2% across the board is the right decision at this time.”

Board member Vicky Hulick echoed that sentiment, saying it’s difficult to make a long-term budget decision without having all of the available financial information in front of her to consider.

“I’ve voted for every raise that you’ve put forward since I’ve been on the board,” Hulick told Thornton. “I’m not anti-raise. Every raise you have put in front of me I have approved. I’m just worried about the unknowns we have coming in the fall next year,” she said.

This coming fall, Hulick continued, it’s likely that “our kindergarten is going to be booming because a lot of people held their kids back a year from kindergarten. … I’m concerned about the long-term ramifications or unintended consequences of large raises now and then talking about them again in the next budgetary cycle.”

Thornton said after the meeting he’s confident he can address the concerns relating to how pay scale adjustments and a 2% raise for all staff would affect the current and future division budget outlook.

“We’ve had some one-on-one conversations and I understand [the board doesn’t] have every answer that I see and my team sees. So we’ll do some more work and hopefully get it passed next month.” The board’s next meeting is set for Jan. 6.

In the upcoming annual budget, Thornton said he plans to introduce a plan that would allow the division to make the starting salary for teachers $50,000. Under the newly approved scale, teachers need to reach step 12 to reach that salary. The updated 34-step scale maxes out at just under $75,000.

“I’ve walked through the schools and I’ve heard our teachers say, ‘Dr. Thornton, we need our kids in school, they’re falling behind.’  And I hear their passion. And I know how hard they’re working,” the superintendent said. “I know the hours, I know the problems, because we discuss those too — it’s not always a great conversation back and forth. I just want to take care of the people who are here every day who have made it possible to do what we’ve done and be open all year long. I feel that has to be our highest priority.”

Statewide average pay for classroom teachers was $59,297 in the 2019 fiscal year, according to the Virginia Department of Education. “In budgets, you always have priorities,” Thornton said. “I think in this budget, more than any other budget, it has to be the people.”