At the Hanover school board’s March 25 work session, some board members ranked reviewing teacher pay scales and keeping their salaries competitive as top priorities.
“It’s the biggest item in our budget,” said Sue Dibble, South Anna District board member.
Dibble also said that the topic is time-sensitive because she believes any decisions regarding employee salaries and the division’s pay scale should be made before June, when contracts are renewed.
The goal of the meeting was to prioritize and briefly discuss a list of issues that board members would tackle during future work sessions. But the school board determined that reviewing the pay scale and how teachers are compensated are issues, under the broader topic of employee compensation, which it wanted to explore.
Board member John F. Axselle III, representing the Beaverdam District, urged keeping teacher salaries competitive. Axselle said it’s important to get suitable teachers in the classroom and try to maintain the good ones by rewarding them.
“Our main purpose is to give our children the best education we can give them,” Axselle said.
But as part of the pay scale discussion, Dibble said she believes it is an item that should be reviewed each year as part of a “checks and balances.”
“So that we know exactly where everyone is [on the scale],” Dibble said in an interview.
In the summer, the board issued a “freeze” on employees who earned salaries that exceeded the school district’s pay scale.
The issue of school salaries surfaced with Cold Harbor Supervisor Elton Wade Sr., who earned $30,030 as a traffic guard at two different schools. For that position, the highest annual salary an employee could make is $13,883, based on the division’s hourly rate for the job. He retired shortly after the news came to light.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jamelle Wilson said the division currently handles employee raises based on whether or not an individual meets specific standards and expectations required of them. When the goals and expectations are not met, Wilson said the employee’s supervisor could suggest the person not receive a raise that school year.
For instance, only employees who have fulfilled the required goals would receive the proposed 2 percent “merit” salary increase included in this year’s proposed school budget.
The current “step system” for how teachers continue up the ladder in the division depending on their level of experience is something the board is evaluating.
“Staff is the largest expense we have and we’re putting our money where our values are when we look at [them],” said Glenn Millican Jr., Mechanicsville District board member.
Another aspect that fell under the board’s discussion on employee compensation is the possibility of implementing a part-time teacher program for retired educators, who would like to be back in the school environment.
Millican said that students and others could benefit from veteran teachers who may want to get back in the classroom.
“It’s my feeling that if people after retirement are back in the classroom, they’re there for a lot of reasons but one of the most important [ones] is because that is where they want to be,” Millican said.
Both Axselle and Dibble said this topic is worth looking into. In a recent interview, Dibble said she wants to hear more information on the matter before officially taking a stance on the issue.
School board members should determine the date of their next work session at their April 8 regular meeting.
The deadline for students to sign up or express a desire to take a “face-to-face” dual enrollment history course was extended to Monday, March 31 to make sure the division includes everyone interested, according to Wilson.
As of Tuesday, 28 students district-wide showed interest in the U.S. History class, which did not change after the extended deadline.
Chairman Robert L. Hundley, Chickahominy District board member, said the class could be offered because that student total complies with partners J. Sargeant Reynolds Community College’s preferred class minimum of 24 students.
Division staff will present the final course interest numbers at the board’s April 8 meeting. The outcome would help school officials and the community college know how many high schools will offer the course or whether it will be offered at one central location, Hundley said.
Talks over the potential course came as school board members weighed their overall college credit offerings.
Hank Lowry, representing the Ashland District, said this is one of his top priorities.
Lowry emphasized the importance of, specifically, the dual enrollment program for Hanover students because he said it would be beneficial for high schoolers to receive credit for higher education even though they may not want to attend an Ivy League college or university.
Norman K. Sulser, Cold Harbor District’s representative, has also pushed for the program. Sulser said he wants students to be aware that while taking an AP or IB exam may be cheaper, they may not always pass with a score of a three or higher to earn college credit. One of Sulser’s biggest concerns is that not all students enrolled in an AP course actually take the exam.
An AP exam costs $85 and IB exams are priced at $105 each. For dual enrollment courses, students must pay for textbooks and $255 for a three-credit course, at $85 per credit.
Students enrolled in a dual enrollment course must earn a C or higher for the credits to count.
Sulser and Lowry raised concerns about whether students are educated enough on the facts and benefits of dual enrollment classes.
“I think you need to tell people, up front, the options,” Sulser said.
Lowry said he does not believe the school system is promoting their dual enrollment opportunities well.
On the other hand, Axselle said the board should offer information on all of the programs and let parents and students decide what works best for them.
“Give them equal opportunity, so the children will know they’re available,” he said. “Let the children and parents pick — they’ll tell you.”