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Isle of Wight school board considers adjusting pay scales

ISLE OF WIGHT

Isle of Wight County Schools is considering adjusting its pay scales to be more competitive with neighboring divisions.

Cheryl Elliott, the division’s director of human resources, brought the issue of the division’s current pay scales to the attention of the school board during its Jan. 11 meeting, citing the results of a division-wide compensation study she began in September 2017. The study examined salaries of teachers, bus drivers, paraprofessionals such as instructional assistants, school nurses and food service workers and concluded that the division’s scales were outdated in some areas.

“In order to hire qualified candidates, we have to make competitive offers,” Elliott said in her presentation. “The problem with outdated pay scales is that a new employee with a few years of experience may actually be paid more than a veteran employee who has only received periodic 1.5-percent or 2-percent raises through the years.”

“All other scales besides teachers, they don’t have 30 steps, there’s low, medium and high,” Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton explained.

For bus drivers, the study recommended increasing the division’s minimum starting pay from its current rate of $11.85 per hour to $14.07 per hour, which would give all drivers a raise of approximately 15.87 percent. The study concluded that the division’s current rate of $11.85 per hour ranks IWCS nine out of 11, with the third lowest starting pay for drivers.

The financial impact to the division to increase the pay of all current drivers would be approximately $195,992 plus benefits. Were this to be implemented, salaries for experienced bus drivers would be capped at $27.22 per hour instead of their current cap at $25 per hour.

For mechanics and bus aides, the study concluded that the division’s current pay scales fall in line with other divisions, and only recommended a 2-percent increase for fiscal year 2019. Doing so would cost the division an extra $7,043 approximately.

For instructional assistants, the study recommended increasing starting pay to $14.35 per hour, a 20.49-percent increase from the division’s current minimum of $11.41 per hour. The cap for experienced IAs would also be raised from its current rate of $18.26 per hour to $21.20 per hour. The division would need to allocate an additional $401,512 to IA salaries plus benefits to implement this recommendation.

“Over 50 of our instructional assistants have been with us since 2010 or longer, and the average salary is $13.37,” Elliott said. “There are more requirements to be an IA than in the past. Instructional assistants are [now] required to have an associate degree, 60 hours of college credit or have passed the ParaPro Assessment. They must also take the restraint training course and the state required Autism course.”

She added that Isle of Wight’s current starting salary ranks the division at ninth out of 10, with only one division starting their IAs at a lower salary.

For teachers, the study concluded that the division’s current 30-step pay scale makes the county very competitive in both the region and throughout the state, especially for experienced teachers. The only recommendation was for teachers to receive the full impact of a planned February 2018 raise, which will range from 2 to 7 percent.

For school nurses, the study recommended reclassifying the position from non-exempt to exempt and to increase salaries by 5 percent. Lynn Briggs, the division’s director of community and media relations, explained that non-exempt employees were those paid on an hourly basis and who are subject to the Fair Labor Standards Act, which would earn them overtime pay if they work beyond their scheduled hours. Exempt employees are those paid on a salary basis and not eligible for overtime pay. The total financial impact to the division for implementing this change and raise for all nurses would be approximately $20,560 plus benefits.

For administrators, which include instructional coaches, assistant principals, principals, coordinators, directors, executive directors and the assistant superintendent, the study recommended that all receive a 2-percent increase for fiscal year 2019, which would have a total financial impact of $114,048 on the division.

To justify the raise, Elliott said that her research had shown that IWCS has the lowest starting salary for directors and high school principals when compared with Hampton, Suffolk, Chesapeake, Newport News, Portsmouth, Norfolk, Virginia Beach, Williamsburg/James City County and York County.

The final recommendations the study made were to give all other employees a 2-percent raise for fiscal year 2019, which would carry a total financial impact of $39,848, and to allocate an additional $56,040 for employees who receive supplemental pay. These include athletic coaches, music directors, class sponsors and academic coaches.

Though not included in the study, Thornton said the division is also planning to give cafeteria workers a 5-percent increase for fiscal year 2019.

“There is a difficulty in doing this, because we don’t have the tax money that Norfolk or Chesapeake has,” said school board chairwoman Vicky Hulick. “But we’re here, and we’re talking about it. It’s a hard line to walk and we’re trying to walk it with the best ease we can.”

“I have taught, and I know, being in the classroom, that it’s easy to think administrators have it easy,” said vice chairwoman Kirstin Cook on the topic of raises for administrators. “I can tell you I’ve got a huge appreciation for what our administrators do, the hours they put in.”

Briggs said that two factors the study did not take into account were the total number of hours per week teachers devote to their jobs, to include planning lessons at home, and the cost of living in neighboring school divisions compared to employee salaries.

Ultimately, the board took no action on the matter, though the board members will have the final say on whether new scales are implemented. To take effect on July 1, the first day of fiscal year 2019, the board would have to take action by June 30.