Only one speaks at input session

Published 10:26 pm Thursday, December 9, 2010

A community input session on the upcoming school year’s budget attracted only one speaker at this week’s School Board meeting.

After a tumultuous budget process last year that included an over-capacity crowd at a meeting at King’s Fork High School, the Education Association of Suffolk president was the only one to come forward Thursday.

Ethel Williams, who also serves as a teacher at Elephant’s Fork Elementary School, came hoping for an increase in teacher pay and a continuation of the school system paying the employee contribution into the Virginia Retirement System.

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“Our list this year is a short one,” Williams said. “However, we feel these items are vital and necessary.”

Williams requested a minimum of a step increase for teachers. Teacher pay is determined by years of experience and level of education. Typically, each teacher goes up a step on the scale each year, but teachers have not received a step increase in several years.

“This is detrimental for both our newest and veteran employees,” Williams said, noting that it will take “many years” for the school system’s salaries to recover.

“The Virginia Education Association will be lobbying for a three-percent increase for the next school year,” Williams said. “We pledge that the Education Association of Suffolk will continue to communicate with and lobby our legislators to provide necessary funding for our students.”

She also requested that the school system continue to pay the employee portion of contributions into the Virginia Retirement System, as it has for years.

“We trust that this benefit will continue,” Williams said. “We recognize the job you face during these economic times is a difficult one.”

Williams also thanked the School Board for approving a bonus for employees with a federal jobs fund award. The bonuses will be paid this month.

“With the current economy and no raises for the last several years, the bonuses provide a tangible recognition of a job well done,” Williams said.

Those who didn’t get the chance to attend Thursday’s meeting still can submit comments by email, School Board Chairwoman Lorraine Skeeter said. Send comments to School Board clerk at