Friday, March 1, 2024

Vice Chairwoman Backs Fiscal 2017 WJCC School Board Budget

WJCC LogoOne member of the WJCC School Board voiced her support Tuesday night for Superintendent Steven Constantino’s proposed Fiscal 2017 operating budget and said she is prepared to vote on it during the next regular meeting.

Vice Chairwoman Kyra Cook (City of Williamsburg) said it will take a long time to “dig out” from the Great Recession and recognized that resolving salary step compression for teachers would be a “big-ticket item,” but thought it would be a “good place to start.”

“We have to invest in our teachers because that is the best investment we have for our children,” Cook said. “I think we should support what has been presented to us.”

Cook’s assertion came after five people spoke during a public hearing on the budget and after staff presented details on the potential range of salary increases.

Speakers offered comment on teacher compensation, early childhood development classrooms and facility needs at Lafayette High School.

Amelie Drake, a teacher at D.J. Montague Elementary School and president of the WJCC Education Association, said the association is concerned about equity among school staff regarding the proposed 1.5 percent salary increase.

“We’d like to see the compression fixed in a way that everyone is respected and appreciated for their contributions to students,” Drake said. “We’d love to see a scale where everyone is getting a least 1.5 percent.”

Lauren Tappan, a second-grade teacher at D.J. Montague, said despite the average 2.5 percent salary increase that was approved for most teachers in the fiscal 2016 WJCC operating budget, she is taking home less money because of an increase in health insurance costs.

“I’m thankful to have an extra $200 this year because many teachers didn’t get a raise,” Tappan said. “While you consider the budget, I ask you to consider what other increases will affect a teacher’s take-home pay.”

Tim Baker, the school division’s senior director of talent management and organizational development, presented draft documentation of the proposed salary scale, which he said would eliminate compression and multi-year salary steps while preparing the school division to offer consistent salary increases in future years.

While the average salary increase would be 1.5 percent, Baker said the preliminary estimates show a range of 1.41 to 6.54 percent increases. Teachers whose salaries have been capped for several years could see a higher salary increase to bring them up to the “step” equivalent to the number of years they have worked in the school division, Baker said.

Constantino emphasized the range is not “set in stone” and adjustments may need to be made depending on how the James City County Board of Supervisors and the Williamsburg City Council chooses to fund the school division in fiscal 2017.

“If we are not funded at the level we have requested, depending on the level of funding we do receive then priorities would have to be reestablished,” Constantino said.

The salary increase would be applied to the base salary of an employee, not the salary plus longevity pay, Baker said. Parliamentarian Jim Beers (Roberts) said he was concerned about the value of longevity pay, which could increase an employee’s annual income by thousands.

“Nobody gets a 10 percent raise,” Beer said. “I didn’t realize it was that high.”

Cook said she felt the proposal would make teacher salaries more equitable.

“I think the current system disproportionately and negatively affects new teachers hired since the Recession,” she said.

The board also discussed the possibility of raising compensation for School Board members from $5,500 to $7,000 annually. Members representing James City County could convene for a special meeting March 15 to approve the raise.

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