Schools pay study released

Published 10:37 pm Thursday, January 8, 2015

Bringing Suffolk Public Schools employees’ salaries into line with the market would come with an annual price tag of more than $4.7 million, and some teachers are being paid nearly 20 percent below market value.

That’s the verdict of a compensation study by Florida-based consultant Evergreen Solutions, reported to the School Board on Thursday.

The various ranges in Suffolk’s pay scale for teachers are from 12.1 to 19 percent below market, the study found.

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Among support classifications, 11 are at least 20 percent below market, while 38 are 10 to 20 percent below market.

Three of the six recommendations would come at a price; the others would be cost-neutral. The costliest, at $3.89 million, is boosting teacher pay throughout the scale.

A teacher with 10 years’ experience would have her pay boosted from $41,810 now to $46,725, and one with 15 years experience would see his increase from a current $46,525 to $51,587, for instance.

Tom Masters, project manager with Evergreen, highlighted that from six through nine years of experience, the cumulative salary increase for Suffolk teachers is only 0.4 percent, compared with the market average of 6.4 percent.

Next is boosting the 38 classifications considered moderately below the market. To maintain internal equity, pay for middle school principals and high school principals would also need to be increased, according to Evergreen. Price tag: $741,700.

The third outlay would be re-grading the 11 support classifications that were considered severely below the market: $85,000.

Evergreen’s analysts found employees enjoy working for the division and share a genuine passion. But they are concerned about being underpaid compared with their market peers and the lack of raises.

Masters said the study compared 14 public employers, including various cities and school division across Hampton Roads, as well as Richmond Public Schools and the city.

Board members were split over how to attempt to implement the results of the study, whose cost of about $80,000 was mostly footed by the city. According to district Superintendent Deran Whitney, the last such study, in 2007, wasn’t implemented at all.

Board Chairman Michael Debranski proposed asking the city for nearly $4 million to implement the teacher salary recommendation in the coming school year, with the school district funding step increases for other employees.

New board member David Mitnick agreed.

“I think that would do a lot for the morale of our instructional staff,” he said.

Evergreen recommends implementing the recommendations together, arguing the data is only accurate for so long. It has also recommended an alternative phased approach that would see the teacher salary increases and boosts to 11 support classifications implemented together first.

Whitney plans to bring board members a recommendation to vote on next month with his 2015-2016 budget proposal.