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Kanawha school board considering employee raises

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Kanawha school board considering employee raises
By Ryan Quinn, Staff writer

The Kanawha County school board’s proposed budget for next school year includes a 2 percent raise for professional educators like teachers and principals and a 1 percent raise for service workers like cooks and bus drivers.

Superintendent Ron Duerring said the salary increases would be the first across-the-board local raises in about a decade for school employees, who have received separate raises from the state in that time. The board heard a presentation on the proposed $236 million 2015-16 school year budget Tuesday, and the body expects to approve the document in May.

Duerring said the proposed raises aren’t influenced by the extra pay the board approved in December for middle and high school principals and assistant principals.

“I think we realized that we hadn’t given our employees a raise since 2005-06, and at the request of the board and everything we looked at this very carefully to see if it was possible,” Duerring said.

Board President Robin Rector said she’s concerned about not only losing Kanawha teachers to other counties, but also to other professions. “We have spent considerable efforts and dollars over the last few years in investing in our physical plant and schools, additions to schools, new facilities,” Rector said. “And it’s time to stop and invest in our employees.”

The National Education Association, a teacher union, ranked West Virginia teachers as the 48th highest-paid in the nation in 2013-14, at $45,100 average pay.

Last school year, according to state Department of Education figures, average salaries for Kanawha kindergarten and elementary teachers ranked No. 19 out of the state’s 55 school districts. Kanawha also ranked 14th in middle school teacher pay and ninth in high school teacher pay.

Neighboring Putnam County paid its elementary, middle and high school teachers more on average.

Even with the proposed raises, Kanawha still expects personnel expenses to drop by almost half a million dollars due to staff reductions and a large number of retirements from more experienced -- and higher paid -- workers.

In December, the board approved raises for administrators only – meant to compensate for hours that Duerring said school leaders are already required to work supervising certain games and tournaments – for the current semester. The board has the option of approving them for further semesters.

On a yearly basis, the raises are worth about $11,700 for high school principals, $7,900 for middle school principals, $6,300 for high school assistant principals and $4,600 for middle school assistant principals.

Though none of the five board members spoke against the newly proposed raises for nonadministrators during Tuesday’s meeting, board member Pete Thaw told the Gazette he was opposed after the meeting adjourned.

Thaw was the only member who voted against the administrator pay raise in December. Fellow member Jim Crawford recused himself because his son is an assistant principal at George Washington High School.

Thaw said teachers should be upset about the already better-paid administrators’ larger salary increases, but said he also opposes raises for everyone. He said Kanawha finally has money to spend on salary increases because it has managed its budget well for 17 years.

“We’re finally starting to see a little bud of new growth, and they want to cut it right off,” Thaw said. “... Now we’re showing a little bit of success, and now they can’t wait to give it away.”