By Kim Walter
WOODSTOCK -- While no action was taken at its meeting this week, members of the Shenandoah County School Board supported a proposal for a program to help the finances of new teachers in the division.
The program is the product of a collaboration between school division staff and the Shenandoah County Education Association as a way to not only improve employee morale and retention, but to also provide some financial assistance to the new hires.
The association's president, Kenneth Sheck, spoke in support of the proposal.
"This might not seem like a big deal to you or those at the administrative or parent level," he said during the comment section of the meeting. "But I can assure you that this is not a little thing to new teachers."
Sheck explained that he knew it was important to new hires, after having dinner with them before the start of the current school year.
"We sat down with the new teachers, and actually a majority of them were about to start their very first year of teaching in this county," he said. "They talked about the stresses that come with it. They were trying to get lesson plans ready, set up their rooms, prepare for these new teacher evaluations, and make time for meeting after meeting."
However, Sheck said the thing that seemed to stress the new teachers out the most was finances.
As it is now, new teachers begin work in mid-August, but don't receive their first paycheck until the end of September.
"They were worried about making it until then," he said.
According to the recommendation that accompanied the agenda item, similar programs exist in competing school divisions in the region.
If implemented, the program would let employees choose if they wanted to participate or not. New employees would request an interim pay in the amount of $500, $1,000 or $1,500. That amount would go to the teacher on the last business day of August, and would be deducted from paychecks for the rest of the school year in equal installments.
The program would come at no extra cost to the school division, and if anything it would help attract new teachers in the end, Sheck said.
"You can recruit new teachers and help to alleviate some stress all around," he added.
Board members agreed that the program sounded like a positive thing for the county.
In addition to the interim pay idea, board members voiced support for the recently approved Edinburg school project.
"I know the board of supervisors had a long, drawn out fight to get the project approved, and I just want them to know that I fully support their decision," said board member Kathryn Holsinger. "This is something that will greatly benefit the students of Shenandoah County."
Board member Karen Whetzel said she had slight concern over losing two teachers to the project, but was happy that the old Edinburg school was being renovated.
The school board also approved the calendar for the 2013-2014 school year.
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org