SPS mulls lifting teacher salariesPublished 10:01pm Thursday, December 6, 2012
Faced with more educators with certain experience levels leaving the district for more money, Suffolk Public Schools is moving to increase some teacher salaries.
A district comparison of teachers’ pay in Suffolk to 14 surrounding districts, prompted by concerns raised in February, was presented to a School Board workshop Thursday.
One-third of resigning teachers leave between years six and ten, according to Human Resources department figures.
After six years in a Suffolk public school classroom, a teacher’s salary, at $40,033, falls to eighth place among districts in Region II. By year eight, the ranking falls to 10th place.
In comparison, salaries of Suffolk teachers with five and nine years’ experience both rank seventh.
“We’re pretty much in the middle, except in (years) six, seven and eight, then we slip … in the ranking,” Director of Finance Wendy Forsman told the meeting.
“Our recommendation would be that we adjust teacher scales six to eight, where we are not competitive with other school districts, and make that a priority of fiscal 2013-2014.”
Superintendent Deran Whitney told the meeting, “When you think about it … that (six to seven years after starting) is the time they start families, buy a home; every buck counts.”
The finance department has looked at several scenarios for adjusting the pay scale, Forsman said.
While Whitney called for “immediate” change to salaries for teachers with six to eight years’ experience with the district, an idea on the potential cost will be presented in January, the meeting heard.
“Whether it will be first priority, second priority (in the 2013-2014 budget), you will have to give direction for that,” Whitney told the board members.
Changing the pay scale is a “great idea,” board Chairman Michael Debranski said, but the state, which has started work on its next budget, could cut funding. “We need to proceed cautiously with it,” he said.
Board member Phyllis Byrum said the district has to retain experienced teachers because “they are an investment in our future growth.”
A Suffolk teacher with nine years’ experience earns $41,258, less than counterparts in York, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Chesapeake, Isle of Wight County and — where they would pull in $46,371 — Portsmouth.
After 30 years with the district, Suffolk teachers’ salaries rank third among the 15 Region II divisions, “almost $6,000 above Portsmouth at that point,” Forsman said.
During a later public session on the forthcoming school district budget, Education Association of Suffolk President Wendell Foster urged the board to consider a salary bump for all teachers.
“Unfortunately, despite our success in the classroom, we are falling behind” in pay, he said.
“We are not asking for a dream budget, but a realistic one that will allow us to move forward and become the premier school system that Suffolk deserves.”