Board talks teacher pay plan

Published 11:21 pm Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Suffolk school district has proposed changing its teacher pay scale so that rookies would no longer have to wait seven years for a raise.

At a meeting Thursday to discuss implementing a board-approved 1.5-percent raise and changes to the Virginia Retirement System, school board members considered increasing teacher salaries $51 per year from $39,484 in year three to $39,637 in year six.

The “decompression” plan would not cost the district more to employ a teacher over the seven-year period, Director of Finance Wendy Forsman told the meeting.

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“We didn’t want to change the higher scales — we had to keep it between step three and step seven,” she said. “We added 1.5 percent to each step.”

Superintendent Deran Whitney said that other steps in the teacher pay scale, which lag behind other Hampton Roads districts for more experienced staff, would be looked at in the future.

“Hopefully it will be able to be addressed as the years progress,” he said.

Forsman said the district faces a challenge implementing the new retirement system requirements because there are two separate scales for new and returning employees.

The school district will be phasing in current employees at a rate of 1 percent each year for five years. But for new employees, the state requires them to begin contributing 5 percent immediately.

“You can see the inequality people are going to see if we don’t do something about that,” Forsman said.

As Whitney explained it, “the inequalities will be very evident compared to a teacher who comes to us and one who has been here five years.”

The district plans to study how much its teachers further up the pay scale earn against colleagues elsewhere, the meeting heard.

There was talk of looking outside Hampton Roads for districts to include in any comparison. “I think we need to look at all the divisions; those that are west as well as east,” Enoch Copeland suggested.

The meeting also heard of talks with the city on cutting costs by sharing some non-classroom expenses. Outsourcing certain functions such as custodial services was mentioned as an example.

“Our task right now, as I see it, is to make sure we look at how focused we are reducing things that are not directly related to the classroom or instruction,” Whitney said.

“It’s not everyone’s room temperature must be 65 or anything like that; it’s behavioral changes.”

The district’s budget woes were recently salved when the city budget allocated the district $2 million more than the $3 million increase from last year’s funding already recommended, and the General Assembly directed $910,029 more in state funds to the division.