Group urges pay increase for city’s teachers

Posted: February 13, 2013

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — Larry Gale, president of the Winchester Education Association, has urged city School Board members to emphasize raising teacher pay over adding staff members.

He argued that without a pay raise, the division would face the need to fill the positions of teachers who leave for better salaries.

“We’re going to lose teachers,” he said Monday during a board meeting. “That’s the bottom line.”

In recent weeks, the School Board has discussed whether to increase employee salaries or hire new teachers and staff — or to implement a combination of both.

The division’s proposed $50 million fiscal year 2014 budget has a shortfall of $993,000. In an effort to balance the budget, officials are trying to decide which employee positions to fund from a list of 14 needed positions.

To fund all 14 would cost about $851,000.

The top two proposed new hires are a fifth-grade math teacher and a fifth-grade social studies teacher at Daniel Morgan Middle School — additions that must be made to remain in compliance with a mandated student-teacher ratio.

The third through ninth priorities are:

A seventh-grade English teacher at the middle school.

A health-sciences teacher at Handley High School.

A bus driver and aides.

A second-grade teacher at Quarles Elementary School.

A fourth-grade teacher at Quarles.

A kindergarten teacher at John Kerr Elementary School.

A career and technical coordinator at Handley, made possible by changing a lead teacher to coordinator.

On Monday, school system officials outlined three scenarios that would balance the budget.

One would eliminate a salary increase, hire the first nine positions on the list and spend $456,795 on remediation teachers to help struggling students.

A second scenario would include a 2 percent salary increase for all employees, funding the top four positions of need and spending $300,000 on remediation teachers.

The third would include funding a 2 percent salary increase for only instructional positions, funding the top seven employee positions on the list and spending $300,000 on remediation.

Discussions about the scenarios will be held in future meetings.

Gale expressed concern that teachers leave the division because of poor salary/benefits and high health insurance costs.

The starting salary for teachers in Loudoun County is $6,000 higher than it is in Winchester. However, with 25 years of experience, Loudoun County teachers are paid $84,186, compared to $54,445 in Winchester.

“The numbers don’t look good, and they’re getting worse,” Gale said.

— Contact Rebecca Layne at rlayne@winchesterstar.com