Teachers deserve fair salaries, too

Published 7:20 pm Saturday, April 7, 2012

To the editor:

With dismay, I read where the Suffolk city manager, under the proposed budget, would receive a 21 percent salary increase, while our school system receives $4 million less than it requested. City of Suffolk department heads would also receive “hefty” raises to make salaries competitive with other localities in the region. It is reported that the Suffolk city manager’s salary would be higher than that of the Chesapeake city manager, who recently resigned. Possibly this is a ploy to raise the salary of the city manager to the level that would discourage her from applying for the now vacant position in Chesapeake. However, if the Chesapeake Council members want someone they can manipulate, then maybe they would be willing to up the ante.

My main concern, however, is the continued disrespect and lack of concern the Suffolk Public Schools system receives from the city manager — as demonstrated in her proposed budget. I expect the manager’s proposed budget reflects the desires of many of the members of council as well. What is more important than the education of the students — our future? When you say the salary increases will help solve some of the morale problems within the city, it may sound great! How about the morale problems that may occur with the educational staff? They again will not be receiving a salary increase. Yes, I know the City Council does not direct how the school system spends the funds allocated. Unfortunately, the school administrators have to make a difficult choice — whether to increase salaries or cut programs. As one would hope, the superintendent and School Board are making the right decision by trying to maintain essential programs, which have a direct impact on the ability of students to be competitive in today’s society. We want our students to receive the best, so they can be the best.

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Wouldn’t you think the city’s administrators and council would see the need to fully fund a “bare bones” school system budget before proposing major staff salary increases during such difficult economic times? After all, one councilman is quoted as saying, “It would be more of a concern if we had to come up with new money to pay for it. But we’re doing it with existing dollars.” Maybe we could use some of the “existing dollars” and spread the wealth, so the teachers could also get a raise. If City Council is concerned about city staff lagging behind other localities in pay, should they not also be concerned about our educators’ salaries?

A slogan comes to mind that has been widely used by many to describe Suffolk, “It’s a great time to be in Suffolk!” If the proposed raises are approved, it would be a great time to be in Suffolk — if you are the City Manager and her staff. On the other hand, remember the slogan “Surprising Suffolk.” I did not think I, or anyone, would have thought that we could be more surprised than we have been in the past by our city officials.

We will all have to wait and see how council reacts to the manager’s proposed budget. Let’s hope we are truly surprised and council uses most of the “existing funds” to give more support to the Suffolk Public Schools system. If council wants to boost morale and make pay more competitive, do so across the board, seeing that salary increases are for all city employees — which include our educators. I agree with a quote from our mayor, “Everyone needs to be compensated fairly for what they do.” Who does more, has a greater impact or influence on our society, and is more deserving of being compensated fairly than a teacher?

Billy Hill
Suffolk