Board pushes better pay for teachers

Published 10:06pm Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The School Board made its case for higher teacher salaries and a special compensation plan for mid-career teachers during a joint meeting with the City Council on Wednesday.

Most leaders left the four-hour meeting cautiously optimistic about the collaboration that happened.

“I thought it went very well,” said Superintendent Deran Whitney.

“The public doesn’t like to see the confusion we see on the national and state level,” School Board member Judith Brooks-Buck said.

Even though leaders said the meeting wasn’t meant to be a budget meeting, much of the discussion revolved around compensation and benefits for school employees.

Suffolk Public Schools leaders put forth a $1.39-million plan that would boost compensation for teachers with five to 15 years of experience to make Suffolk more competitive with salaries offered in surrounding districts, particularly Chesapeake, Portsmouth and Isle of Wight County.

Suzanne Rice, director of human resources for the schools, said 30 percent of teachers who left the school division at the end of the last school year did so to teach in another district in the region. About 48 percent of those who left had seven to 15 years of experience and could earn as much as $6,000 a year more in neighboring divisions.

The three-year plan would provide “competitive adjustments” to three or four experience levels at a time. The adjustments — ranging from $800 for Step 15 to $2,800 for Step 9 — would not be in the base salary so as to avoid complications with the Virginia Retirement System changes, schools Finance Director Wendy Forsman said.

But some City Council members were skeptical of the assumption that the teachers who left did so for pay alone.

“You really don’t know how many teachers left strictly because of pay,” Councilman Mike Duman said. He said other factors — from class sizes and treatment from parents and the administration all the way down to the individual teacher’s commute — could have played roles.

Councilman Charles Parr said the school system should compare total compensation, rather than salary alone.

“When you’re dealing with teacher salaries, you’re dealing with small numbers,” Brooks-Buck said. “It’s not a big difference between the package compensation you get and the salary.”

School officials also proposed a full salary study to be conducted in about four years.

During a discussion on health and dental insurance, some City Council members suggested cutting coverage to send saved money to the classroom.

“The key is to shift money where you can to the classroom,” Duman said.

The governing bodies also talked about a possible joint use facility that would incorporate school and city warehouse needs like textbook storage, archived records storage, the print shop, food services offices, the lawn shop and more.

The school district proposed locating the facility in a renovated Mount Zion Elementary School on Pruden Boulevard. City Council members and city officials don’t like the idea.

“The 460 site isn’t the highest and best use,” Deputy City Manager Patrick Roberts said. “We stand to benefit tremendously on 460 on this corridor.”

He added, however, that the idea of a shared building is good.

“We could be good neighbors in a facility and save the taxpayers money,” he said. “Bottom line, we believe it’s not the best location for it, and we would like to move forward as quickly as possible somewhere else.”

The school system also proposed a five-year timetable for heating, ventilation and air conditioning replacements at 11 school buildings. The buildings would be an average of 24 years old by the time the equipment was replaced, if the timeline goes through as planned. Total cost for all of them — $9 million.

PrintFriendly
  • deany

    There is absolutely no reason for the teachers of Suffolk public schools not to have received a raise or step increase in 6 or. 7 years. In addition they have not received a step increase either. I bet if you did a study, these poor teachers are at or near the proverty level. Contrary to popular belief, teachers are 10 month and are paid as such. This means the only way they receive pay in the summer is if they have their pay spread out over 12 months or get a summer jib

    Suggest Removal

  • godfather 22

    What about the teachers with over 15 years? Why aren’t they being considered for any Step scale compensation. It’s absurd to not include them in any Step compensation. The more experience and committed you are, the less valuable you are. How about the city stop wasting money on items not needed and give all educators their Step. If need be revamp the scale, but at least make everyone look forward to something.

    Suggest Removal

  • qcpie

    Clearly education is not at the top of the priority list for the city of Suffolk. Suffolk will not learn until they have lost all of their good teachers.

    Suggest Removal

  • am

    SOQ’s (Standards of Quality)Set the MINIMUM guidelines for many of the policies that affect a school division, including staffing. If SPS is paying more than the required SOQ amount it is to provide for something other than a 24 (up to 29) to 1 ratio in various elementary school classes, additional guidance counselors, assistant principals, teachers etc. SPS is now starting to cut back on some of these SOQ’s. I’m not saying I agree with all of what SPS is doing, but at least I am trying to understand the process. http://www.doe.virginia.gov/boe/quality/

    Suggest Removal

  • deany

    I would like to know when the citizens of Suffolk will demand accountibility from the school. Board and SAO…..both constantly profess there is no money coming in from the city, but administrative positions are constantly being added, nepotism being promoted, and incompetence encouraged, all at the expense of the teachers and students of Suffolk. I am convinced theducation. is not a priority in Suffolk because. Zif it was we would not keep hearing the same excusesfrom the entities.responsible for educating our children.

    Suggest Removal

    • thekytikat

      Suffolk Chapter of Hampton Roads Tea Party is doing the best we can to hold ALL of our city government accountable. Last year at budget time we were the only group to send someone to sit down with Budget Director Ann Seward, and we had Alston come to a meeting to answer questions about the school budget.

      We do not have unlimited resources tho. We need HELP! Come join us, Constantia House on 1st & 3rd Tuesdays at 630pm. We need all the help we can get.

      Here’s the write up I did for Suffolk HRTP about the “Education Retreat” — wp.me/p3IifH-5N

      Suggest Removal

  • melburnor

    I’m not quite sure how I follow the logic of cutting our healthcare coverage to funnel more money into the classroom. I’m all for funding classroom needs, trust me. However, no step increases, no raises, now thinking cutting our already overpriced healthcare coverage is going to entice teachers to stay? I am going to bet if the exit interviews were completed retroactively- it’s pay. We are making LESS than our paychecks just a few years ago, doing more, testing to death and paperwork that feels endless. I know so many of us won’t be able to afford to stay much longer if things don’t improve because we can’t pay our bills, let alone enjoy any quality of life. I’m not even talking yearly vacations- just Christmas presents without skipping a mortgage payment.

    Suggest Removal

  • fingertothenose

    The headline on this article is false to begin with….the School board is NOT pushing for better pay. The SB does whatever the superintendent tells them. Debranski and Buck are pawns for him. No teacher will receive raises anytime soon (unless you’re an underperforming math teacher). The SB will CLAIM they are adding raises but they will inevitably cut them and blame the city. This is the same old pattern. Same old same old. The only ones who receive any real compensation is school administration and the SB approves that without question.

    Suggest Removal

    • spdrltr

      So true.

      Suggest Removal

    • thekytikat

      Even the math teachers aren’t getting raises — just “bonuses”. Did ya’ll catch how in the explanation of how they want to give the different steps more pay, that the School Board doesn’t want to actually give the teachers a raise, because that would affect the VRS mandated raises still in play. But that they would be tacking the money on as bonuses or something until the VRS phase-in is complete.

      Suggest Removal

  • mykidsmom

    It’s funny how the school system did a salary study in the last 10 years and it was pushed under the rug and nothing done with it…

    How about the upper echelon of the School Administrative Office having new/revamped positions with higher salaries while the instructional and support staff have not had raises in about 6 years… What is Kevin Alston’s new position? How much of a salary increase came with it?

    If there is a maintenance department, why are there Trane Trucks at schools every day?

    What about the teachers/staff that have over 15 years of service that are being held hostage with lower salaries due to the fact that leaving harms their retirement?

    It’s not just the money; the teachers are treated poorly, micromanaged, and paper trailed to death! Let them do their job and teach!

    Why does SPS train in house for administrative positions and higher outside for the majority of the positions – a total misuse of funds!

    The school system and the city have no desire to work together and it harms the education of all of Suffolk’s students.

    Why does the city of Suffolk take 25% of the state funding for schools and use it to line the cities coffers?

    It’s time for the citizens of Suffolk to wake up and demand better for their students!

    Suggest Removal

    • thekytikat

      MyKidsMom – Can you prove the 25% comment? Because the City not legally allowed take any money the state sent for the school system. If they are doing so, & you can prove it, we can get the state to start an investigation.

      OR — Are you talking about all the ways the city nickel & dimes the school system?

      Suggest Removal

      • mykidsmom

        “I think that Suffolk is just as good as every other city in our surrounding area,” Alston said, going on to explain that Suffolk pays only 73 percent of its state-determined “ability to pay” for education while most other localities pay more than 100 percent.

        http://www.suffolknewsherald.com/2012/10/18/education-debate-ruffles-feathers/

        Suggest Removal

      • thekytikat

        FWIW – I did research into that statement when it happened, because I wanted to nail the city on that in the Budget battle. It’s not true. The truth is that the city pays 76% OVER what the State says the city needs to pay to fully fund the school systems.

        The state has some weird rubric they use to determine how much money each locality needs to fully fund their schools. They then send a HUGE portion of that amount, and set the rest of it as the Required Local Effort (RLE).

        Copy & paste this:
        leg2.state.va.us/dls/h&sdocs.nsf/By+Year/RD192013/$file/RD19.pdf

        That is the documentation that proves City of Suffolk is funding the School System at 76% ABOVE the RLE. The means that we exceed what the state says we need by 76%, not that we only fund at 73% of what the state says we should, as Alston said.

        True, some cities fund their school systems at as much as 151% above their RLE, but those are usually wealthier areas, or larger population bases.

        The city is in no way skimming 25% off the top of the funds earmarked from the state for the school system. If they tried, they’d get get in so much trouble… We’re talking jail time for the higher-ups.

        Suggest Removal

      • mykidsmom

        You need to check this document to see what the city actually gives – Not quite the numbers the state is showing…

        http://www.suffolkva.us/files/1913/7236/5118/School_Board_Component_Unit_Specific_Revenue_and_Appropriation_Detail.pdf

        Suggest Removal

  • suffolklady

    ‘ “You really don’t know how many teachers left strictly because of pay,” Councilman Mike Duman said.’

    This is further proof that no one EVER talks to or listens to the teachers. EVERY teaching colleague of mine who has left the system has done so for more money. And we have lost some really good teachers as a result.

    How about conducting exit interviews when teachers leave? Find out WHY they are leaving. Oops, I forgot – this would involve caring. Plus, who wants to hear the complaints from the underlings?

    Suggest Removal

    • thekytikat

      That was Duman’s point actually. The School Board presented a number, that 30% who left did so because of money. but when asked to prove that, they couldn’t. Their 30% number was actually the # who had left SPS for neighboring school systems. When Parr & Duman asked how many had left specifically for pay, the school board had no proof or answers. Duman & Vice Mayor Brown both wanted the School System to do better Exit Interviews to find out if it was actually pay, or conflict with Admin, parental involvement, etc…

      It’s not The City Council’s Fault, or Mike Duman’s fault the Suffolk Public School Board and Administration don’t conduct proper Exit Interviews.

      Suggest Removal

      • suffolklady

        Since I work for SPS, I am fully aware that it is not City Council’s job to do exit interviews. Your comments prove my points exactly – SPS has no idea how many teachers are leaving for the money.

        Suggest Removal

  • ladybug9327

    Duman is clueless – TEACHERS LEFT BECAUSE IN SUFFOLK WE ARE TREATED BADLY-we receive little to no consideration, so of course when you are talking about teacher salaries you are talking about LOW NUMBERS. We already spend a sizeable portion of our salary on supplies; things like pens, paper and copies. If the City Manager can receive a raise after comparing her salary to other localities – why shouldn’t the same rules apply for teachers in Suffolk. Sure let’s cut dental and health coverage for teachers – great idea. The City Council has once again told the teachers of Suffolk that they could care less about the public school system. May I ask a question: Where do your families go to school?

    Suggest Removal

  • truly

    Ya know, I get kind of excited when there are talks of compensation comparable to other districts. However, it never pans out. This will be my seventh year teaching and I am still at base pay. I have not had a raise or step up when I’m supposed to have had several according to the pay scale when I started. Granted, I am very glad to still have a job, but the cost of living is increasing. I feel if I am helping mold the future generations, I could be paid a little more. Just a little. I spend over $500.00 on things for the classroom, and school supplies for students who do not bring them to class. I spend throughout the year on motivational tools, on books I need for resources, and for CHALK for crying out loud. I am not provided anything. It all comes out of pocket for me and yet I am still not compensated. I have not been able to pursue my Master’s degree because there is no reimbursement program, and obviously I do not make enough money to pay for it myself. I have a strict budget and a husband that also works but it is still a struggle to make ends meet sometimes. I think the city should strongly consider increasing pay. For those that are making six figures, maybe cut a little fat from your salary. I can tell you that a lot of teachers DID leave because of salary in addition to the people at the top not accommodating their needs as teachers. Their hopes were to find that elsewhere. Come on, Suffolk, get your act together. There is no reason a new teacher should be coming in making more than a veteran of six plus years. It really infuriates me.

    Suggest Removal

  • thekytikat

    I was there for the first part, but had to leave. I watched the rest of it online, and wrote about it for Suffolk HRTP:

    hrteaparty.com/wordpress/suffolk/2013/08/15/its-all-about-the-budget-baby-city-of-suffolk-education-retreat/

    The kicker for me was when Mayor Johnson proclaimed that a meeting that spent the better part of 4 hours discussing money, was not at all about the budget. Really? If she really believes that, I’ve got ocean-front property in Ohio that I’d love to sell her.

    Suggest Removal

    • stown23437

      The point of the meeting was to get to a starting place I believe Kytikat. If they would have started the meeting talking about dollars instead of needs, that would have been a futile conversation. Compare it to buying a home: you look at its amenities, your future needs and wants and gain an understanding of the property. You always discuss price later.

      While I think there is much work to be done on making both groups on the same page of understanding, I think yesterday was a great start on understanding the needs. If you are a parent of a child in Suffolk Public Schools, then I would hope you would be able to see the positive in the potential future outcomes of what was discussed. Be optimistic. I am looking at this from a glass half full perspective.

      Suggest Removal

      • thekytikat

        Stown – actually, when my husband & I were looking for a house, we talked price FIRST. We looked at nothing outside of our price range because we didn’t want to get into a situation we couldn’t afford. It is only because of our careful planning that we are still able to make the payments on our current home.

        The biggest NEED the school system has … is Dollars! That’s why it is disingenuous for the Mayor to try to claim this meeting has no budget implications. 2/3rds of the meeting was all about justifying why the school system needs the money they will be asking for again in a few months when we start the Budget process all over. This meeting had HUGE budget implications. To try to convince us it didn’t, is spectacularly stupid.

        Suggest Removal

    • stown23437

      I hear what yare saying kytikat. Amongst your group you discuss dollars, but the final stage of a home buying process, much like a budget process is negotiation.
      I think talking strictly money yesterday would have been a poor starting point. Baby Steps. Both needed to set clear expectations of what the needs are and the goals are before discussing dollar amounts. Working together is the ultimate goal that will benefit the citizens and save us tax dollars.

      I was very happy with the starting point.

      Suggest Removal

      • thekytikat

        “Both needed to set clear expectations of what the needs are and the goals are before discussing dollar amounts. Working together is the ultimate goal that will benefit the citizens and save us tax dollars.”

        But that’s just it… Nothing they did will improve the working together situation. What I heard from the School Board was a lot of “look, this is why we need the money.” What I heard from the City Council was a lot of “but we don’t have money to give you, so find another way.”

        Nothing was accomplished. And I predict that there will still be a fight come next March & April, when the school asks for more money that the city doesn’t have.

        Suggest Removal

  • fingertothenose

    I encourage your readers to watch the filmed meeting on the Suffolk website. THis article is rather flimsy in its detailing the “goings-on” in the meeting. The school system balked at most of the city’s questions and was really poorly organized.

    Suggest Removal

    • stown23437

      I also watched, so I was a bit confused by the article. If the citizens actually care about the School System and its future success they will take the time to watch the meeting from the video archive.

      Suggest Removal

Editor's Picks