Schools propose raises, ask city for extra

Published 10:43pm Thursday, February 13, 2014

Suffolk Public Schools would ask the city for an extra $3.5 million and raise salaries for all full-time contracted staff in a proposed 2014-2015 spending plan its superintendent presented to the School Board on Thursday.

Deran Whitney’s proposed budget, which he said was “bare bones,” calls for full-time teachers to get a 3-percent raise and other full-time employees a 2-percent boost.

Wendy Forsman, the district’s finance director, said it would increase the twice-monthly paycheck of a teacher making $50,000 by $42.

Other increased costs would include a state-mandated 1-percent Virginia Retirement System phase-in raise for all employees, increased employee costs in other areas — including some co-payments doubling — and $500,000 toward what Forsman said was $10-million plan to replace aging heating, ventilation and air-conditioning infrastructure.

As well as asking the city for the extra amount, bringing the total request to $52.68 million, the proposed budget also counts on increased revenue from the commonwealth of $2.9 million.

“This would be step one in terms of trying to get salaries increased,” Whitney said. The raises did not represent what teachers and other district staff were worth, he said.

He wished he could have asked for more, Whitney said, but “I also recognize where we are as a (school) system and as a city.”

Later in the meeting, the superintendent said he was “continually amazed” at how teachers “continue to work, considering we have cut and reduced resources. … They continue to work, and they continue to work hard.”

After last year failing in her attempt to have the district pursue outsourcing as a means to provide a 5-percent raise to teachers exclusively, board member Linda Bouchard questioned how much more teacher salaries could be boosted by doing away with the smaller raise for other employees.

“I just feel like we should concentrate on the raise for the teachers,” she said.

Board Chairman Michael Debranski disagreed, saying “all our employees are deserving of raises. … I think without strong administration, the program goes nowhere.”

The debate moved into the territory of school resource officers, which will come at an increased future cost to the district after a state grant ends.

Forsman said the officers, in middle and high schools, would cost the district $525,000 next year, money paid to the city for a service that some cities provide gratis.

Bouchard said the district could stop paying for the officers and “just call the police when we need them.”

Whitney responded that while the officers are not required in schools, “that would not be my recommendation.”

A public hearing on the budget is planned for March.

  • TB_suffolklady

    Did you know the School Board/SAO THREW AWAY over $300,000 worth of text books?

    Just threw them in the dumpsters…..there’s the salary increases. But I bet good ol’Deran gets a raise

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  • No_More_LIES

    City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn wasn’t the only high-ranking city employee to get a big pay raise this month, after the City Council approved boosting her salary last week to $178,000, a 14 percent increase.

    Deputy City Manager Patrick Roberts and Chief of Staff Debbie George also received raises of 8.5 percent and 7.7 percent respectively, and several department heads also got raises.

    The raises Roberts and George received were part of a general overhaul of the city’s pay scale that went into effect Jan. 1. City officials said the intent is to make salaries for city jobs competitive with those in other Hampton Roads communities. It adds about $720,000 to the city’s payroll.

    In all, about two-thirds of the city’s 1,280 employees got raises, most ranging from about 1 percent to nearly 10 percent. About 360 workers, many of them at the lower end of the pay scale, did not get raises.

    The Virginian-Pilot obtained a copy of the new payroll list under the Freedom of Information Act.

    Roberts’ new salary of $143,945 makes him the city’s third-highest paid employee behind Cuffee-Glenn and Commonwealth’s Attorney C. Phillips Ferguson, who makes $153,251. Ferguson and other constitutional officers did not get a raise this year.

    Roberts had gone without a pay increase since 2009, save for a 3 percent raise all city workers received in 2012.

    George has fared much better. Since 2009, her salary has climbed from $91,747 to $127,261 – an increase of nearly 39 percent. A former police detective who also serves as city spokeswoman, George is now paid more than Police Chief Thomas Bennett, who makes $119,043.

    Other department heads who received substantial raises include economic development director Kevin Hughes and parks and recreation director Lakita Watson. Each makes $114,863, up 7.2 percent. Planning director D. Scott Mills makes $121,025, up 4.1 percent, and interim finance officer Anne Seward makes $121,334, up 4 percent.

    One of the largest percentage increases, 25 percent, went to Mary Ann Herring, a mosquito control technician in the Department of Public Works who now makes $27,899 per year.

    Some firefighters and social workers earning about $40,000 a year saw raises of 1.5 percent.

    The City Council approved the new pay plan last spring based on a consultant’s study that found salaries lagging, especially among high-level employees. That left the city at a disadvantage in recruiting and retaining workers, the consultant, Woodbridge-based Management Advisory Group, told the council.

    The plan also was designed to eliminate inequities within the pay scale. Adjusting the salaries all at once would have cost the city about $3 million, according to the consultant.

    The council voted instead to phase it in over three years.

    Responding to questions by email, George said the council has approved only the first installment. Future installments will depend on the availability of money.

    “No dates or funding have been identified for the remaining phases,” George said.

    Still, if all goes as planned, employees who just received raises would get two more raises equal in size to this year’s raise over the next few years.

    “It’s my understanding there will be another third and another third if the money is there,” Councilman Mike Duman said.

    The council approved Cuffee-Glenn’s pay raise Jan. 16 with little open discussion after what some members described as a contentious exchange during a closed session.

    Last spring, the council rejected a plan to raise her pay by 21 percent. Cuffee-Glenn had tucked the plan into her budget proposal, but the council took it out after residents packed the council chambers in protest.

    The raise they approved last week by a 6-2 vote was about $5,000 less than the earlier proposal.

    “I told them the timing was not right for me because it was my first meeting, and I had no way of evaluating the validity of the raise,” Councilman Roger Fawcett said of the closed-door discussion.

    Fawcett and Lue Ward, also new to the council, voted against the raise.

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  • No_More_LIES

    What you all need to be doing is watch out for the back door raises.

    Items on the City Council agenda for this week’s meeting once again include performance evaluations of council appointees.

    At the Feb. 5 meeting, the item was on the closed-session agenda, but only two of the four appointees — the city clerk and city assessor — were evaluated. The city manager and city attorney remain.

    On the work session’s open agenda are an assessment update from the city assessor and an update on the General Assembly session. The session begins at 4 p.m. at council chambers, 441 Market St.

    Click to deleteFollowing at 7 p.m., the agenda includes a public hearing on the Capital Improvements Plan, as well as public hearings for a mini-warehouse facility on Centerbrooke Lane, amendments to proffers at the CenterPoint Intermodal Center, a church on Harbour View Boulevard, a cosmetology trade school at 347 N. Main St. and a window tinting business on South Saratoga Street

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  • melburnor

    This all comes down to, AGAIN, a battle for money with City Council. They have no problem funding new office spaces for themselves, or projects that compliment their agenda, but they prove time and time again they do not care to invest in the public education of Suffolk’s students. The mayor was even quoted earlier this year in regards to money to repair the HVAC systems that if schools got “too hot, they could just send them home.” That is really proving you value increasing the rigor and highly educating our students?? Just send them home…great plan.

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  • hambone

    Common sense or Educated board member

    Remove Police from schools . I take common sense any day before Masters degree or Doctors degree board member who says remove Police from schools , when everyday you have reports of kids taking guns or other weapons to school else where . It will happen here educated board member its a question of when. Can someone have the school board go to common sense classes.

    just common sense add more police to schools

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  • hambone

    Is Mrs. Bouchard going to a kids house when they are killed and tell they parents sorry we had to cut the police to save money so there wasn’t one there to stop the fight or shooting from happening. No she wont. FORher to suggest taking police out of the schools shows she has no clue what is going on in the schools. The rest of the school board should ask for her to step down from the board for just suggesting that. There should be more officers in the schools. I bet the parents at schools in other states wish they had a officer when a shooter showed up to school and shot there child. Don’t think it cant happen here. I have no doubt any day you could find a weapon at a school in Suffolk. Mrs. Bouchard may be educated but you cant educate someone on common sense. stupid suggestion remove police. everyone on the board should have to spend a year at a high school or middle school and see if the police is not needed. They wont because they don’t have common sense, but a education.

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  • FreeSpeech

    Please, all of you, put your money where your mouth is. We need a tax increase. That is the ONLY way EVERYONE you want can get a raise. Stop your whining, everyone pay a little, more, and our schools won’t seem like a joke to you anymore. Best schools in Virginia = higher taxes. Deal with it.

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    • thekytikat

      Speak for yourself. My family is on the verge of bankruptcy as it is. We can not afford a tax increase. To add insult to injury, my children don’t use the school system, we homeschool.

      If you want to pay more in taxes to the city, by all means, open your checkbook and write them a check. Don’t force the rest of us to pay more.

      FWIW – throwing more money at the school system will NOT make it better. Reducing the amount of unfunded mandates from both the State & Federal Governments would go a long way. Getting the city to stop charging the school system for things like resource officers and vehicle parts, etc would help as well.

      With the tolls in place, there is a disincentive to live on this side of the river. Reducing taxes across the board, and reducing the government regulation on businesses would provide an incentive for businesses to move to this side of the river, and for people to move here to avoid the high tax rates of the surrounding areas.

      But hey, that makes economic sense, so it won’t happen.

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  • justmyopinion

    I hope at the next election that public speaks up and votes for School Board members and City Council members that support ALL Suffolk Public Schools and City employees. How one board member can justify that only teachers get a raise or a larger raise is very unfair to all the other employees. Everyone words hard to make sure our children and our school system runs smoothly. Bus drivers get our children to school, cafeteria workers feed our children, custodians clean our schools, Technology makes sure all students and teachers have up-to-date computers, Purchasing buys the books and equipment both teachers and students need. Finance pays the teachers on time even when everyone else is off due to snow, the Administrators make sure all the schools runs smoothly and state and federal laws are followed…so yes, teachers deserve a raise but so does everyone else regardless of their salary. My child has attended Suffolk Public Schools for 11 years and has received a great education but I thank all the employees who make that happen!

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  • reader826

    I love how they used the salary of $50,000.00. According to the SPS pay scale, a teacher has to be at step 15/16. Most teachers don’t make nearly that!

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  • Roger Leonard

    Prior to any such actions we expect our leaders to make the decission, can we afford this increase? I agree that the teachers come first, then everyone else in the pecking order, after. Administrators are last, that is defined leadership.

    I feel the proposal is fair and reasoned, but it is getting harder each year to pony-up the taxes that the Mayor, council and City Manager demands… Think, Plan, then do…

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  • vanity

    “Wow! Absolutely Unbelievable!” I am in shock regarding the comments made by “Your Very Own School Board Member, Linda Bouchard. She has openly slapped all non-teacher employees in the face including the Superintendent by suggesing that only teachers receive raises. So, it is apparent that she doesn’t think that Suffolk Public School’s Superintendent Dr. Whitney deserves a raise either. Who does she think does the payroll, hiring of “teachers” buying the supplies including books/supplies that both teachers and students need, and disciplining students. She apparently thinks the teachers accomplish their goals alone. Her job is to be supportive of “ALL” Suffolk Public Schools employees. I sincerely pledge that the Suffolk Community be careful in their selection of School Board Members. This one you can all do without. Linda Bouchard’s thinking is disastrous in times that are already hard with health insurance steadily increasing, taxes increasing, gas and food prices at an alarming cost. Also, the very suggesstion of removing resource officers out of schools and just dial 911… I could scream. Look at this scenario. If there is a fight with a weapon, 911 is called, officer is dispatched, and how long will it take the resource officer to run down the hall as opposed to the police driving to a school in the Northern area. I hate to think about the outcome. But, I just said “think”. My father always said, “An empty cart will always rattle”.

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    • TB_suffolklady

      You are clearly not a teacher. Bouchard wants raises for teachers who had more money taken out of their pay checks this year. More money for teachers who are being forced to do the superintendent and all the “directors” and “coordinators” jobs. More money for teacher who clean their own rooms! Who buy their own supplies! This raise for EVERYBODY is ludicrous…the superintendent GAVE HIMSELF and all his people a raise last year. He shifted jobs to created “promotions” that WERE NOT BUDGETED FOR. He currently makes almost $180,000 plus expenses!!!

      Bouchard is supporting teacher. The superintendent and all his high and mighty friends that work for him in admin do not. They don’t care as long as they look good.

      Bouchard is also saying that the board doesn’t need a raise. That’s b/c they make at least $10,000 plus FULL BENEFITS! Teachers don’t even get full benefits!


      By the way, the super will pull this raise off the table. it’s a tactic to make the city look bad. HAHAHAHA! What he doesn’t realize is that people are starting to see the light.

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      • walle

        I am not a teacher but I agree 100% with Vanity. We all work together as a team. That is support staff and teachers to accomplish one goal and that is for all students to become educated. All raises should be equal. No one person should be treated any differently. Don’t think that office staff have not purchased their own office supplies either. I not saying that teachers don’t work hard but we all do, lets not forget that teachers get virtual work days which we all know most of them do not “work” on those days but everyone else does. Yes Ms. Bouchard did slap the support staff in the face and was a very hard disappointing slap.

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  • blueberry

    Suffolk schools have become the biggest joke, the kids aren’t even allowed to bring home text books.

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    • ladybug9327

      No – they can take home textbooks and in many cases they are now online. With the size of the new textbooks I certainly wouldn’t want my child carrying it – we aren’t covered for chiropractic care.

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      • blueberry

        No they cant, I was told by my sons 2nd grade teacher that they are not allowed to let the kids bring home textbooks

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    • FreeSpeech

      1. What do textbooks have to do with this article?
      2. Have you gone to the school to ask for a textbook at home? I am sure you will get one.
      3. In the Suffolk school where I teach, students can certainly take home their textbooks, and many do. Others use the on line version.

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      • blueberry

        I have asked and the teacher says no, I am a volunteer at the school o I am there daily, it is the only way I know what is going on

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    • melburnor

      I am not sure what’s going on at your school unless they are using textbooks that were bought by PTA/school as supplement to SPS issued books. All students are assigned textbooks which are checked out to them thru Destiny, and can be taken back and forth at will. Ask the admin if you get a different response, or the librarian.

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  • gs

    Take money from the football/sports programs and use that for raises or improving education. let the participants pay a fee for extra curricular activities. Education first.

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    • ladybug9327

      You can’t take the money from extra curricular activities – in many cases those are self sustaining and the schools pay for police and event staff.
      I’d like to see a few of the School Board Members who care so deeply for the School staff take a pay cut to provide the raises that we so desperately need. Many teachers with children in the system are being forced to pay for before or after school care, all thanks to our “new and improved school day” – which sorry folks, sucks. Beyond that, the 2% raise from a few years ago – well that went right into the retirement system that Suffolk put off paying into and made no budget allowances for future increases. So the answer – do the same thing again – looks good on paper, but don’t mention that of the 2% half of it will again go into the STATE MANDATED retirement system.
      And now you want to stop paying for the resource officers? Three years ago the School Board did away with the “hall monitors” and security staff; teachers are now given “hall duty” and front desk duty instead of having our preparatory time; most are teaching six classes with a much larger class size than previous years. After a 30% exit rate last year by staff, you would think the Board which “unanimously reelected” themselves, would care a bit more about their employees.
      You ALL should be ashamed of yourselves.

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