Teacher pay a concern in Spotsylvania
By PAMELA GOULD
Spotsylvania School Board members aren’t pleased that the division’s new teachers earn less than first-year teachers in Fredericksburg and Louisa County.
But with a projected shortfall for fiscal 2014, they aren’t sure what they will be able to do about it.
“We know we have a $7.9 million deficit, so the chances of us giving employees a pay raise are zero as I see it,” said board member Ray Lora.
Other board members are less pessimistic, but don’t have great expectations either.
“I would hope that we could do something,” board member Jim Meyer said.
He’s open to finding a way to increase pay or assist with health-insurance premiums or find some option that would put more money in employees’ pockets.
“I could see us searching for a [cost-of-living adjustment] again,” said board member Amanda Blalock. “All that’s really doing is keeping their heads above water.”
For this school year, most employees received a 5.8 percent pay increase, but 5 percent of that was to cover a state mandate that employees start paying their own Virginia Retirement System contribution.
Most employees received a 1 percent COLA and a $600 bonus last year.
That was the first pay raise since the 2008–09 school year, when staff received a 2.5 percent COLA.
Because of the struggling economy, employees haven’t received a step increase—pay hikes linked to experience—since the 2007–08 school year.
TEACHER PAY SCALES
Beginning teachers in Spotsylvania earn $39,200 this year compared with $40,370 in Louisa County and $40,250 in Fredericksburg, according to data assembled by the Spotsylvania division’s Human Resources Department.
Starting teachers in Stafford County earn $36,685, which is less than in Orange and Culpeper counties, but $685 more than in King George.
Though first-year teachers in Stafford earn less than their counterparts in Spotsylvania, Stafford teachers earn more than those in Spotsylvania at all other steps included in the survey.
The survey begins at Step 0, then jumps to Step 5 and includes data at five-step intervals up to Step 30.
Spotsylvania Superintendent Scott Baker joined board members in their concerns about teacher recruitment and retention with the current pay scale. But he said it’s too early in the process to say, what, if anything, he will recommend in his budget proposal for fiscal 2014, which begins July 1.
He said he is getting input on priorities and savings ideas from a Budget Advisory Committee, of which 70 percent of the members are parents and other community members.
Next month, he also should have the results of a review by the Virginia Association of School Superintendents that should include an analysis of the division’s salary scale.
In his first year as superintendent, Baker said he is evaluating how the division operates to see if there are areas where he can improve efficiency.
Board members were surprised to see that Spotsylvania’s assistant principals start at the second-highest salary among 11 Virginia districts surveyed, behind only Arlington County.
However, none of the board members interviewed said assistant principals are overpaid.
The survey data provide the range of salaries that are advertised by divisions, not necessarily what any individual is earning.
Spotsylvania’s assistant principals start high but fall toward the back of the districts surveyed when it comes to maximum pay.
Principals also rank second to Arlington at the beginning of the pay scale, but drop to the middle of the pack for the maximum salary.
Baker cautioned against thinking the advertised salary is a true barometer of what people are paid in other jurisdictions, especially at the low end of the scale.
“It would surprise me if they were paying very many of their administrators at that level,” he said.
Board member Gil Seaux said he’s concerned about pay for all employees when costs such as electricity, diesel fuel and heating oil are rising. He also said Spotsylvania’s recruiting concerns aren’t as severe because there are fewer teacher positions available nationwide these days.
Seaux and his colleagues also pointed out that Spotsylvania offers more for current and prospective teachers than pay. They said employees have a good benefits package, support from administrators and the community, and a nice place to live.
Even at that, board members said their top priorities remain unchanged.
The first is to keep class sizes from increasing, said Board Chairwoman Linda Wieland. The second is to address the needs of staff.
“They are who make us what we are,” Wieland said. “We have to protect them.”
Pamela Gould: 540/735-1972