IWCS teacher vacancies drop to 13; compensation study proposed

Published 4:59 pm Friday, July 21, 2023

Isle of Wight County Schools had 13 teacher vacancies as of July 13, down from 27 in June.

Human Resources Director Laura Sullivan updated School Board members on her recruitment efforts at the board’s July 13 meeting.

The vacancies account for 3% of the school system’s roughly 430 teaching positions.

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Last year, when the Virginia Department of Education released its annual staffing and vacancy report on Oct. 1, Isle of Wight County Schools reported 1.8% of its then 394 teaching positions remained unfilled as of that date.

In hopes of heading off the statewide uptick in teacher vacancies Virginia has seen over the past year, Isle of Wight County Schools offered $1,000 referral bonuses in June to any staff member who recruits a new classroom teacher, and $4,000 sign-on bonuses to any teacher hired in June who remains an employee of the school division for the entire 2023-24 school year.

According to the 2022 VDOE staffing and vacancy report, the number of unfilled public school teaching jobs rose from 2,8815 on Oct. 1, 2021 to 3,574 by the same date in 2022, an increase of 758 vacancies or 26%. Four of the five public school divisions that border Isle of Wight were in the top 20 highest vacancy rates.

Southampton County, as of Oct. 1, 2022, had the worst vacancy rate statewide, reporting 20.8% of its teaching jobs unfilled. Suffolk, also in the top 20, had reported 8.7% vacancy rate by the same date. Isle of Wight lured several teachers from each last year.

Isle of WIght’s remaining teacher vacancies as of July 13 were “pretty spread out” among the county’s nine public schools, and among departments within schools, Sullivan said.

To ensure Isle of Wight maintains competitive pay with neighboring school systems, Sullivan is proposing to hire an outside firm to conduct a compensation study.

Most school systems conduct compensation studies every other year, if not annually, Sullivan said, but Isle of Wight hasn’t done one since 2006.

Isle of Wight County Schools has a 35-step pay scale that would ordinarily boost teachers’ salaries 1%-2% annually based on the number of years they’ve been teaching. This year teachers will receive a 5% raise irrespective of their level of experience in accordance with a state mandate included in Virginia’s 2022-24 biennial budget.

School Board Chairman John Collick said he and other board members were unaware at the time of their 2023-24 budget talks that the state-mandated 5% raise would be used instead of the 1-2% step increases, rather than added to them for a total 6%-7% increase. Collick added that even if he had been aware at the time, giving step increases in addition to the mandated 5% raise would have added over  $1.2 million to the school system’s budget.

Isle of Wight’s 2023-24 pay scale for new hires ranges from $49,000 for 220-day teachers with a bachelor’s degree but no experience to $83,154 for teachers with 35 or more years of experience, with additional stipends available for those with graduate degrees.

Sullivan plans to present another update in August.