Session projects competitive pay for school employees

A projection of pay raises for teachers and other school staff led Thursday’s Shenandoah County School Board work session about a proposed school budget for the 2015-16 fiscal year.

The improvements to pay scales would afford school employees more understanding of what they might earn from one year to the next and help the district remain competitive with others around the region, said Superintendent Jeremy Raley.

“Last year we accomplished our phase one goal of salary improvements for teachers,” Raley said in a phone interview Friday. That effort helped the district reach the median salary range of school districts in comparison localities of Augusta, Clarke, Frederick, Harrisonburg, Page, Rockingham, Warren and Winchester.

Work session materials show Shenandoah salary scales range slightly below the median of other localities in most benchmark years, with the 5-year and 15-year marks showing the greatest difference of approximately $860.

Next, Shenandoah wants to remain competitive in its market while developing a structure that uses definitive percentage increments through all levels. Raley’s proposal would change the 40-level salary scale to 35 levels.

Proposed benchmarks start teachers with a bachelor’s degree at the $40,250 median rate, raising salaries by about 1.1 percent every year beginning in the third year. Teachers would earn slightly more than the median rate at most increments, ending at $55,944 by year 30. Beginning that year, teachers would earn a 2.5 percent increase for five years.

The board has not taken any action on budget proposals so far, but Raley said he would like to see a pay scale that maintains consistency throughout — not only during the first few years of a teacher’s career, as the scale does now.

He acknowledged this is a discussion other area districts are also having.

In Warren County, teachers earn a raise after the first two years, but then remain at the same level for several years, Superintendent Pam McInnis pointed out at a Thursday night School Board meeting. She intends to make the district’s employee pay scale a top priority in budget discussions next month.

Earlier this week, Frederick County discussed plans to improve the percentage of its salary increases to better align its pay scale with that of Winchester Public Schools, which Superintendent David Sovine said outranked Frederick schools three to one in pay increases over the last few years.

Some non-teaching positions in Shenandoah County haven’t had pay raises in years, Raley said he learned from feedback through Shenandoah’s Staff Excellence Action Plan sessions. They remain at the same hourly pay level despite pay scales outlining 10 or more levels.

The proposal would give hourly employees a 35-step system that shows employees when their next pay raise will be and for how much. Most positions would remain close to their current pay levels, but others would start out much lower than they do now.

Licensed practical nurses would start at $21,067 instead of $30,000 and max out at $34,272 at 35 years instead of $46,402 at 40 years. Registered nurses, however, would start at $37,963 and max out at $51,229, instead of the current pay scale of $32,000 to $49,495.

Maintenance staff would have two pay grades, with a lower pay grade ranging from $25,896 to $48,069 and a higher pay grade from $34,528 to $62,181 over 35 pay levels. Maintenance staff now start at $38,908 and top out at $55,954 after 11 pay levels.

Bus drivers would benefit from the proposals, with various pay scales bringing them to a maximum of between $14,118 and $21,173 instead of the current scale of $13,443 to $14,115 over the course of 26 pay raises. The lowest pay grade is for drivers working a three-hour day, with supplemental pay for those who work more than three hours.

Overall, Raley said, “It was a very positive work session.”

He proposed benchmarking all employee salary scales by spring and adopting regulations for the implementation of its Compensation Policy Plan by May. The plan was approved last summer.

The next work session is at 7 p.m. Jan. 29 at 600 N. Main St., Woodstock, and will focus on instructional materials, resources and programming. A joint session with the Board of Supervisors at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday will discuss the district’s Capital Improvement Plan.

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