Teacher hires may trump pay raises

Posted: February 2, 2013

The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — Whether to adopt a 2 percent salary increase or hire more teachers than now proposed could soon become a discussion point as city school officials begin preliminary budget talks for fiscal year 2014.

School Board member Vince DiBenedetto summed it up succinctly at a board Finance Committee meeting Friday.

“It’s pay raises versus positions,” he said.

The division’s FY 2014 budget has projected revenues of $49,055,966 and expenditures of $50,049,036 — a $993,070 shortfall.

Gov. Bob McDonnell has proposed that school divisions and the state government share in a 2 percent salary increase for all funded Standards of Quality teachers and instructional positions, including guidance counselors, librarians, instructional aides, principals and assistant principals.

Participation would be optional under the proposal, but for a division to receive state funding, a local match is required, the amount of which is driven by the composite index of the area. The index determines a school division’s ability to pay education costs based primarily on an area’s property values and adjusted gross income.

Among the SOQ are staffing ratio levels that schools should follow to maintain good instruction. The reality, however, is that many Virginia schools hire beyond the SOQ requirements, and those employees are considered non-SOQ funded personnel and are paid for entirely by the localities.

According to the governor’s proposal, the state would provide $193,975 for the 2 percent salary increase in Winchester, while the division would be required to match $495,834 based on its composite index.

To give all employees a 2 percent raise, the division would be required to pay an additional $179,166.

“It really hurts local boards making decisions on their needs,” Schools Superintendent Rick Leonard said after the meeting.

In addition, the division was handed $1.9 million in personnel requests, which included an appeal for 22 new teaching positions.

The demand is too costly for the division, so Leonard ranked the top 14 positions of need — which would require $851,000 to fund.

If the governor’s proposal is passed by the General Assembly — which is in session — the School Board could face a difficult decision on whether to spend $675,000 on a salary increase for all staff members or hire additional staff and teachers — a task that becomes more essential as enrollment increases.

When asked by City Council member Les Veach which was more important at the moment, Leonard replied: “I think at this point we need more teachers.”

The matter is in flux: The School Board could choose to adopt a lower salary increase, or the governor’s proposal of a 2 percent increase could be amended.

The division’s budget will be adopted in April.

The committee reviewed the list of priority personnel requests at Friday’s meeting.

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 priority is a health-sciences teacher at Handley High School for a new program funded partially by Valley Health.

“The demand is there,” Leonard said of student interest in the program, which has yet to be approved.

Also included on the proposed new hire list are a bus driver, a second- and fourth-grade teacher at Quarles Elementary School, a kindergarten teacher at John Kerr and Frederick Douglass elementary schools, and an English as a Second Language teacher at Quarles and Virginia Avenue Charlotte DeHart.

A proposal to change a lead teacher to a Career and Technical Education coordinator at Handley is also on the list.

— Contact Rebecca Layne at rlayne@winchesterstar.com