Raises top Warren School Board budget priorities

FRONT ROYAL — When the Warren County School Board convenes in February to discuss its budget for the 2015-16 school year, salaries for all district employees will top its list of priorities.

It’s a problem that’s weighed on the district for too long and needs to be solved, said Superintendent Pam McInnis.

“We have been in a situation for a number of years, now, where our salary goals have been really messed up,” she told the board during a Thursday night regular meeting.

She said the step scale the division uses offers a raise to teachers after two years but then keeps them at the same salary until the eighth year — “Which is not what we want.”

It’s a scale that helps bring in new teachers but does not give them incentive to stay, she said.

Board member James Wells agreed, “I think we have to focus on the experienced teachers.”

Said board member Joanne Cherefko, “I think anything would come secondary to a raise for our teachers.”

The board plans to discuss more plans for the budget at its regular public meeting at 7 p.m. Feb. 12. A joint meeting with the Board of Supervisors is planned for 5:30 p.m. Feb. 17.

A chart of the division’s projected revenue, presented by Director of Finance Bob Ballentine, notes that revenue from the commonwealth for the next fiscal year should amount to $26,958,951, and from the federal government should be $51,078,863. Those numbers are an increase of $456,045 from the current school year’s state and federal revenue.

The board also discussed the process so far in hiring a new superintendent to replace McInnis when she retires later this spring.

So far, after mailing 850 letters of interest to educators that are qualified for the position and might be interested in applying, the district has received one application. The deadline for applications is Feb. 16.

“I know people are looking at it,” said David Martin, a principal with the firm Real Synergy, which the School Board hired to consult on the search.

“There’s been a lot of interest from those who may not know about Warren County,” he said. Having fielded calls from those considering the job, he said he’s learned the essay requirement for some questions has slowed down the process.

“We’re going to get applications, so please don’t worry about that,” he told the board.

He said he will present all applications in a three-ring binder to the board so members can review each one and read every essay.

He said the number of eligible superintendents surprised him until he realized some had already retired. Other applications were returned unopened, he said, because of addresses that have not been updated.

“The state has been very cooperative,” Martin said. “I’ve talked with lots of organizations in the state, and without exception, they are very sad that Pam is retiring, because her reputation precedes.”

The board will hold a closed meeting to discuss names of applicants at 9 a.m. on Feb. 21.

Contact staff writer Josette Keelor at 540-465-5137 ext. 176, or jkeelor@nvdaily.com