A standing-room-only crowd demanded answers Monday for recently instituted pay raises for school administrators.
Brooke County Schools Superintendent Toni Shute told angry residents and school personnel that the raises were part of a larger plan to provide higher salaries to all school employees through the five-year operating levy up for renewal next year.
Board members agreed to hold a special election Feb. 23. If it doesn’t pass, they will hold another election June 1.
Some of those who attended the meeting indicated they may not support the levy.
Resident Melissa Miller, while addressing the board, encouraged others not to vote for the levy. She said the board owes the public taxes collected for five schools that were closed last year.
Paula Doll, who also opposed to the raises, asked what it would take for them to support the levy. Many responded they would vote for it if they rolled back the raises or removed Shute as superintendent.
Doll questioned the formula used to determine the raises, which range from $8,925 to $32,901. She said Shute has compared the board staff’s salaries to those in neighboring counties, but they should be compared to those of McDowell County, which has a comparable enrollment and smaller budget.
Shute said the school board’s staff is smaller and each has more duties, such as the administration of federal funds, that can’t be eliminated from the board’s operations.
Amy Perez, a Brooke County teacher, said she and her colleagues are “more than outraged” by the raises because school board officials told them the district faced a financial crisis that necessitated the closing of schools and cutting of more than 40 professional and service personnel.
The board heard from representatives of state educators and school service personnel organizations, including Jeremy Radabaugh, regional representative for the West Virginia Education Association. He reminded people that school personnel from Brooke County and elsewhere in the state held a work stoppage to receive a 5 percent raise this year.
Shute presented two proposals she said were discussed by the previous school board, of which only two members — Brian Ferguson and Antoinette Perkins — remain following May’s election.
Both call for the levy to include across the board raises for the school’s professional and service personnel. One calls for all staff to receive a $1,000 raise and the other, a $1,500 raise.
In either scenario, staff would receive a $2,500 raise in each of the following four years, a $500 stipend to be applied to their retirement and improved vision and dental benefits.
Shute said the move would raise the minimum salary for teachers to $37,221, with $4,180 of that from levy funds; for bus drivers to $22,650, with $3,790 from the levy; and for custodians to $22,110, with $3,780 from the levy.
In addition to wages and benefits, the levy raises $6.1 million annually for such items as computer software and other instructional materials, repairs and improvements to facilities, pay for staff overseeing extracurricular activities and specialized services for students, such as speech and physical therapy.
Over the years it has been passed by a majority of voters, usually in a special election.
Board member Stacy Hooper moved to postpone setting a date for the election. She said the move would save $30,000 to $50,000 it would pay for its own election that could be spent instead in schools.
Shute said the election would be worth it if it generates millions of dollars in funds for the schools and their staffs. The special election dates were approved by board members Ted Pauls, Chris Byers, Ferguson and Perkins and opposed by Hooper.