Teacher raise plans changed

Published 10:30 pm Thursday, May 11, 2017

As the School Board waits to see how much of its funding request will be granted by the City Council this year, the board received a tongue-lashing from teachers, bus drivers and parents at its Thursday meeting at King’s Fork High School.

Six people spoke during the meeting’s time set aside for late comments. They berated the board on multiple topics, including bus driver compensation and the amount of money appropriated to academic departments.

“If y’all don’t give any incentives to get bus drivers here, y’all might be short and not be able to get kids to school,” Suffolk Bus Drivers Association president Angelo Stone warned. “We’re the foundation. We deserve higher than that.”

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The bus drivers staged a two-day “sick-out” earlier this year in protest of low wages and benefits.

Two teachers, Natalie Rotzler and Sherry Story, talked about the low amounts of money being provided to academic departments and special education at individual schools. Story said scientific laboratory equipment needs are not being met.

“I have begged you to look into the fact that money is not being appropriated for science investigation,” she said to the board. “You’re not listening.”

During the meeting, Superintendent Deran Whitney said he plans to respond to teacher concerns about higher raises being proposed this year for teachers with fewer years of experience.

His plan is to use whatever money is available to give a flat raise across the board, he said. A similar plan will be used for support staff, such as bus drivers.

“I can’t say enough that I think everyone deserves an increase,” he said.

The School Board requested an additional $2 million in local funding from the city this year. The city manager’s budget included only $1 million in additional local funding, but City Council members last week asked the city manager to find the additional $1 million for a total of $2 million.

Higher raises had been proposed at the bottom of the teacher scale to aid recruitment efforts.

“That will not add to our efforts as far as recruitment is concerned, but it sends a message we’re not valuing one level of experience over another,” he said of the new plan.

Some School Board members responded at the end of the meeting to the criticism.

“You didn’t fall on deaf ears,” David Mitnick said. “I look forward to seeing what we can do.”

Whitney, responding to Story’s concerns, said he will report back to the board with an inventory of scientific equipment in Suffolk Public Schools, including what has been recently purchased.