Educators Ask For More Pay

Published 4:51 pm Tuesday, January 8, 2013

CUMBERLAND – The Cumberland Education Association presented its input on the upcoming budget during the December school board meeting. Of the three requests from the association, only one involved money: a request for a three percent pay increase in steps. The remaining two requests were for earlier notification regarding health insurance pricing and a reduction in school day hours.

The requests by the Cumberland Education Association and the administration's recommendations for the budget were largely in line, a detail which was pointed out by the association's president, Margaret Korrow.

If preliminary numbers hold true, the budget with the administration's recommendations will require a half million dollar increase in funding according to the report submitted by Assistant Superintendent of Finance and Operations Chip Jones.

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The board also voted to approve policy changes, a new comprehensive plan, board goals and an expulsion during its December meeting, while barely making the quorum of three of the five board members needed to conduct business. Chairman Ginger Sanderson from District One, George Lee Dowdy III of District Two and George Reid Jr. of District Four were present, although there was little discussion throughout.

Budget Update

The December school board meeting provided time for public input on the development of the school budget. Superintendent of Schools Dr. Amy Griffin reminded the board and attendees that the budget had not been developed yet. Instead, Jones' budget report was simply an indicator of the factors the administration is taking into account while beginning to craft a draft budget.

Jones offered a quick budget update prior to public input. He reiterated that it was based on preliminary numbers.

According to the update provided by Jones, the school is expecting a reduction of approximately $86,000 in state funds due to a projected decrease in student enrollment.

A decrease of $73,000 in federal funds is also possible, if sequestration goes into effect on the first of the year, according to Jones. (It did not, however.)

The report also listed a potential increase of $79,400 in health insurance.

Jones shared the input he had received from the school administration for the budget. The administration had expressed the following goals: “1. No decrease or elimination of services to students; 2. Funding for the current Step Structure for employees; 3. A two percent pay increase for employees; and 4. Investigate health insurance options.”

Jones clarified that the Steps Structure “affects the group of employees…based on years of service, that are able to move up, if they are moving from one year to another based on their current salary scale.”

He also clarified that the administration wants to explore health insurance options “to make sure that we are getting the most affordable health insurance that is available.”

In conclusion, the report stated that “in order to achieve the recommended budget goals, an increase of approximately $500,000 is needed.”

CEA Requests

Korrow then addressed the board on behalf of the Cumberland Education Association.

The Cumberland Education Association is the local affiliate of the Virginia Education Association, which is an affiliate of the National Education Association. The purpose of the association, in the words of their president, Korrow, is “we speak for the teachers and try to do everything we can to try to help the children and the teachers.”

Korrow began by stating that the Cumberland Education Association recognized the difficult economic situation that Cumberland schools and schools around the nation were having to tighten their belts, adding “we made a lot of hard decisions a long time ago, so we are a little ahead of the game.”

“All school personnel recognize that money will be tight. However, we respectfully request the school begin the process of raising salaries so that staff can begin to get closer to where we were before this economic downslide.

“We know that will be difficult. But any steps you can take in that direction will be greatly appreciated by everyone.”

Korrow went on to emphasize the need to maintain support personnel positions, stating that support personnel help students reach their highest potential by helping to first supply their basic needs. She also suggested that laying off personnel would only exacerbate the current unemployment levels and economic troubles throughout the county.

She reported that the Cumberland Education Association surveyed members and used the results to present three considerations for the development of next year's budget.

First, a three percent pay increase in steps was requested. Korrow added that Jones had already mentioned an increase in the recommended budget and “we're all kind of leaning the same way.”

Second, the association requested that personnel be notified of the approximate cost of insurance before contracts needed to be signed and turned in. She added that, “we realize that we will not know the exact cost, but it would be helpful to have a ballpark figure so people can make a decision.”

Third, shorter school days and a change in the school schedule were requested by the association. She clarified “contract hours would remain the same. The extra hours could be used in many, many, many helpful ways. I know the administrators are working on the schedule now, so that also is being addressed.”

Korrow pointed out that only the first of the three requests involved money, with the remaining two requiring no increase in spending.

Finally, she stated, “if reductions in staff and the budget carry on as they have over the last few budget cycles, we will continue to lose valuable personnel.”

She thanked the board, on behalf of the Cumberland Education Association, for the opportunity to share their requests and be actively involved in the budget development process and also shared their willingness to co-partner with the administration and school board.

Korrow later confirmed with The Herald that “the superintendent and the Cumberland Education Association are all on the same page.”

Board Budget Input

Time was also provided during board comments for budget input. Sanderson was the only board member that offered budget input, continuing the emphasis on supporting school staff. She stated, “I believe [in] where the school system is already leading and headed and that is looking at our students first, making sure that we continue to strive to continue and maintain programs for them and classes, as well as our staff.

“Because we have truly dedicated staff in this building and in all of our buildings here. And I believe that we need to support them as best we can no matter what the budget times look like, because they do a phenomenal job everyday with our students.”

Food Drive

During the period of public address, Korrow was also the only speaker. She thanked the school division for its tremendous amount of support for the food pantry through its yearly food drive.

She stated that she was in charge of the food pantry and that “more and more people are coming to our pantry because they've lost a job, they've had a home burned, something has happened to cause them to come to us.”

She continued, stating that the school's food drive “keeps us going… so we can give people plenty of food until about April.”

Korrow enthusiastically reported that the elementary school brings the results of their drive in a pickup truck and a van. The middle school's donation, she said, fits in the back end of a SUV. When the high school brings their donation, she said with a chuckle, it fills the trunk and back seat of her car. She concluded, “I just can't thank you enough for that food drive. It keeps us going. Thank you.”

During board comments, Dowdy said he would like to challenge the school system to have a food drive every month. Referring to Korrow's comment about the drive helping the food pantry until April, he said “[let's] see if we could push that pass the spring and into the summer and fall.”