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Spotsy approves bonuses for school employees

MORE: Read more Spotsylvania County news

 Teachers and all other full-time public school employees in Spotsylvania County will receive $900 bonuses on Dec. 20.

Most of the funding will come from about $2.7 million that went unspent in the school division’s budget during the fiscal year that ended June 30.

The Board of Supervisors on Thursday unanimously approved allocating those dollars for the bonuses at the School Board’s request, but not before Supervisor Ann Heidig raised the possibility of merit-based pay increases. Heidig said she’d prefer that the bonuses be greater for teachers who go “above and beyond.”

“I’d like to see it tied to some sort of a merit system,” said Heidig, who ultimately voted in favor of the bonuses with no strings attached.

Spotsylvania school Superintendent Scott Baker said the bonuses aren’t nearly enough to reward school employees for what they do every day.

“The bottom line is that most of our employees, if not all, are doing things above and beyond for the love of students and not for an expectation of anything beyond that,” he said.

LaShahn Gaines, chief financial officer for Spotsylvania schools, noted that county government employees—but not school employees—are receiving a 1 percent pay raise in January. She also said the bonuses would help offset the increased cost of health insurance.

“Recognizing that employees have not had a substantial pay raise in five years, we feel very comfortable bringing this recommendation to you this evening,” Gaines told the supervisors.

School employees didn’t receive raises this fiscal year.  They received  small cost-of-living raises  in 2011 and 2012 and last got a step increase—which rewards employees for years of experience—in 2007.

Full-time school employees also received a $600 bonus during the 2011–12 academic year.

Supervisor Gary Skinner said a merit-based system would be hard to implement fairly.

“When you look at trying to do a performance evaluation on a person, I think that’s so difficult to do in any school system because of all the different classes you may have,” he said. “You can’t judge a person because of the students or the students’ ability in that classroom.”

Teachers who attended the meeting applauded after the supervisors voted in favor of the bonuses. Several thanked the board during the meeting’s public comment period, but noted their continuing financial struggles.

“This will be the first Christmas in several years where I’ll actually be able to provide a Christmas for my own family instead of having to humbly accept help,” teacher Melissa Brace told the board.

Heidig, who has taken recent tours of Spotsylvania schools with other board members, said she’s been blown away by what she’s seen. Her merit-pay suggestion “was by no means an effort to say that I don’t think they earn every single nickel that they make, and I look forward to seeing a budget coming from the School Board with pay raises funded,” she said.

Jeff Branscome: 540/374-5402