School Board: Salaries lower for teachers

FRONT ROYAL — When members of the Warren County School Board meet on March 12 to approve the 2016 fiscal budget, they plan to address funding increases for salaries of teachers and other school staff.

In January the board discussed plans to increase salaries but this week more closely considered how pay scales of Warren educators compare to those of neighboring counties.

Following a work session presentation Thursday by Director of Personnel George R. “Buck” Smith, Chairperson Catherine Bower called the comparisons “quite an eye opener.”

As Smith indicated, the district lags behind others like Winchester and the adjacent counties of Frederick, Shenandoah, Clarke and Fauquier in many job positions.

Superintendent Pam McInnis pointed out that teacher pay scales have been adjusted to account for a lack of raises in recent years and account for across-the-board percentage increases.

“[Teachers are] making what our scale says, but we’ve had to adjust the scale,” McInnis said.

Previously, teachers were on each pay step for no longer than two years, but now they’re trapped there for several years.

“Obviously we have some more work to do,” she said.

The discrepancy in pay scales to those of other districts was most noticeable among teachers with master’s degrees, who can lose out on between $43,000 and $204,000 over the course of a 30-year career if they work in Warren County.

Closest on the salary comparison scale is Shenandoah County, which pays its teachers with master’s degrees a starting salary of $43,171, as opposed to Warren’s $42,860.

Teachers who stay with Shenandoah ascend to $55,415 at 30 years, while those in Warren earn $53,621.

Cumulatively, the difference is $43,600 over a 30-year period, said Smith, who used today’s currency values as a constant.

“That’s like working a year for free,” he said.

Ranked highest on the region’s salary scale, Clarke County starts its teachers with master’s degrees at $46,763 and tops out a 30-year career at $61,413, a difference of $203,980 compared to Warren’s pay scale over the same 30-year period.

Winchester schools begin salaries at $44,730, Fauquier at $44,431 and Frederick at $44,028.

Teachers with a bachelor’s degree start off earning more in Warren County than anywhere else except Fauquier, but by the fifth year fall behind Winchester and Frederick, and by the 10th year fall behind other districts.

At 30 years, teachers in Warren and Shenandoah make nearly the same — about $55,000 — while those in Clarke make $57,639, Frederick $60,094, Winchester $61,161 and Fauquier $66,793. At 40 years, Warren teachers make more than teachers in Shenandoah and Clarke.

Smith also compared other job pay scales to those in neighboring counties.

Maintenance workers in Warren County start between $17,970 and $19,537, but in Shenandoah County they start at $38,908. Shenandoah’s pay scale caps at almost $56,000 after 10 step increases, but Warren’s takes another 19 steps to cap at $53,458 for a journeyman or $43,611 for other maintenance positions.

Some jobs in Warren pay significantly better.

A clerical administrative assistant starts at $27,709 — about $3,500 more than the employee would make in Shenandoah County. After 13 years, Warren’s salary surpasses those in Frederick and Winchester, and then experiences three $3,000-$5,000 pay raises in eight years to end at $56,238. That’s more than $10,000 higher than the same assistant would make in Winchester.

Director of Finance Robert Ballentine said the variation of pay steps from one district to another makes it tough to compare “apples to apples,” particularly depending on the criteria districts use. A new employee with experience might start somewhere in the middle of a pay scale, but steps aren’t necessarily based on years of experience, he said.

At a public hearing following the work session, Warren County Educational Association President Kim Okland spoke in favor of raises, calling the current deficit “unacceptable.”

Other meeting business included the approval of a new deferred compensation plan resolution for district employees, the approval of a food service management contract and the approval of school meal prices for the coming year.

Commenting on how school meals were $1 in 1969, board member Joanne Cherefko called it “outstanding” that 46 years later, school meals in Warren are only $2 at middle and high schools and $1.90 at elementary schools.

The district also announced on its website the following dates that will now be school days because of so many recent weather-related school closings: March 30, March 31, April 1, April 2, and April 6.

Warren schools have had eight closings, nine 2-hour delays and one early release so far this school year.

At the March 12 meeting, Superintendent Pam McInnis plans to announce information on voting for a name for the county’s new middle school. She suggested choosing from names originally suggested for Skyline High School, or using another name relative to the school’s proposed location on Leach Run or its proximity to the Blue Ridge.

In Warren County, she said, “middle schools and high schools are not named for individuals.”

The board will hold a work session at 5 p.m. Thursday to discuss the budget and plans to present its budget for approval at a regular meeting at 7 p.m. March 12. At a joint meeting on April 21, the Warren County Board of Supervisors will approve its contribution to the budget.

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