School board approves supplements, bonuses

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 20, 2016

By Rebecca Rider

SALISBURY — Teachers will get a long awaited bump in pay, the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education decided Monday. At a called meeting, the board voted to allot certified staff a fixed-dollar salary supplement and to grant support staff a $250 bonus.

However, there was some debate over whether the board should award system employees a bonus or the recurring supplement. Money for supplements would come from the expansion allocation granted by the county in June. The board initially asked for more than $2 million in the hopes of funding projects and giving a 2 percent pay raise to the system’s more than 3,000 employees. But when the county budget passed, the district only received $1.5 million — not enough to provide even a 1 percent increase.

At previous meetings, the board parsed out the funds to other projects, such as a pilot restorative classroom program and supplements for coaches, leaving $678,000 to work with for supplements or bonuses.

But the board argued over whether to award supplements or bonuses. A pay raise would be a recurring cost, and would be tied to benefits. But dividing the remaining funds for a bonus for all staff would be a meager fix.

“We initially asked for that money with the idea of giving raises to our teachers — or to staff,” board member Dean Hunter reminded the board.

However, with limited funds, board member Travis Allen said it was important to remember support staff: cafeteria workers, bus drivers and instructional assistants, among others. According to Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody, non-certified staff have not received a local pay raise in seven or eight years.

The new state budget allocated a 1.5 percent pay raise for support staff and a 4.7 percent average pay hike for teachers. But Allen said more should be done for non-certified employees.

“I love what teachers do, but it seems like when the state does make moves, it takes care of the teachers,” Allen said.

Other school employees often “fall through the cracks” when it comes to pay and bonuses, he said.

After a protracted back-and-forth, where the board debated which route would be best, Allen proposed using the fund balance to give a one-time $250 to support staff. And in a compromise, Hunter suggested dividing the $678,000 by the number of certified employees, and the amount used to provide a permanent supplement.

“That includes everybody, everybody gets something,” Allen said in support of Hunter’s solution.

With approximately 1,400 staff, Hunter estimated that the increase would be roughly $368 annually once benefits were removed. Providing a $250 bonus to non-certified staff will cut approximately $400,000 from the fund balance.

Both measures were approved unanimously.

In other business the board:

  • Hired Denita Dowell as the principal for Faith Elementary. Dowell previously worked as an assistant principal at North Iredell Middle School.
  • Unanimously approved $200,000 from its fund balance for signing bonuses. Newly hired teachers are eligible to receive a $500 bonus — or $1,000 if they teach math, science or are a certified EC teacher — when they sign on with the district.
  • Approved an additional salary supplement for Henderson Independent High School in the hopes of attracting teachers. Teachers who work at Henderson would receive a $2,500 supplement their first two years and a $5,000 bonus their third year. If the measure is unsuccessful, the board will re-evaluate the increase. Henderson teachers formerly received supplements from a School Improvement Grant, which expired last year. The supplements, drawn from the board’s fund balance, total $100,000.
  • Appropriated $80,000 from its fund balance to create a full-time facilities position and approved the creation of a risk management position. Allen and board member Chuck Hughes opposed the facilities vote.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.