Tuesday, July 07, 2015

TOP STORY >> Teachers pay plan approved by board

Leader senior staff writer

Over the sighs and grumbling of teachers, the Jacksonville-North Pulaski School Board on Tuesday night approved, 5-to-1, a front-loaded salary generous to new teachers, but which leaves experienced teachers with advanced degrees feeling cheated, perhaps looking for new jobs.

That’s especially true when compared to the Pulaski County Special School District, where the salary tops out at nearly $70,000. The proposed JNP schedule starts at $38,000 for first-year teachers, nearly $4,000 more than PCSSD, but it tops out at $55,500.


On the motion of board vice president Ron McDaniel, four other board members voted to accept the district’s first salary schedule for the 2016-2017 school year, with the proviso that it be revisited after the three-quarter year enrollment figures in the 2015-2016 school year. That’s time enough to increase the salary if it appears the district will have enough students to justify it financially. An increase of 400 students would result in additional revenue of about $2.6 million a year, Superintendent Tony Wood said—money that could help increase the salary schedule.

Joining McDaniel were board president Daniel Gray, Secretary Carol Miles, LaChonda Watson and Robert Price.


Board member Richard Moss encouraged the board to value the human resources and find a way to pay employees, particularly teachers, better. His was the dissenting vote.
Employee salary and benefits will account for 75 percent of the anticipated operating revenue for the

first year, based on a projected 4,000 student enrollment, according to Beverly Williams, a consultant who toiled over the alternatives.

The state provides $6,300 in minimum foundation aid per student, and that’s the lion’s share of the money available, she said.

“Clark County is screaming for teachers, and here you are throwing them away,” said Dupree Elementary School math teacher Rick Kron.

“It’s an insult and demeaning to Jacksonville and could slow the district’s dream of greatness by years because you are banking on the unknown,” Kron said. “The pay scale clearly does not value experience or education.”

Kron said the new salary schedule would cut his pay by 20 percent and cut his benefits nearly in half.


“We knew there would be some sacrifices and challenges,” said Gray. “When you see it on paper and it affects friends and community members…but we can’t be emotional. We have to base it on fact, and it has to be sustainable.

“We all wish these numbers were greater,” said Price. “We have to make hard decisions.” He asked Williams if she could come back with better numbers for the teachers, but she said it would obligate 80 percent of projected revenues for salaries and benefits and she didn’t recommend it.

“We could be bankrupt, back in fiscal distress in one day,” said Miles.

Earlier, during public comment, Gwendolyn Harper, speaking for the Jacksonville NAACP, said she was disappointed by the lack of transparency in the hiring process and criticized JNP for recommending the hiring of Bobby E. Lester as an assistant superintendent, even though a black woman scored two points higher on the evaluation.


Subsequently, PCSSD Superintendent Jerry Guess refused to hire Lester, saying it would send the wrong signal at a time when the district was trying to achieve unitary status.

Following an executive session, the JNP board accepted Lester’s letter of rescission, refusing the position Harper and Joshua Intervenor attorney John Walker were concerned about.

The board authorized Wood, who started work July 1, to advertise requests for qualifications for architectural, design and construction management companies to oversee design and construction and rehabilitation of district facilities, including a new Jacksonville High School.

That would almost certainly require local voters to approve a property-tax millage increase.


In other action, PCSSD Director of Maintenance Brad Montgomery said all teacher materials from the old Jacksonville Middle School had been moved into the appropriate classrooms at Northwood and that the old Jacksonville Middle School sign would soon grace Northwood.

He said two portable building would be brought to the site for additional classroom space, and outfitted to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Charles Blake, director of transportation, said eight to 10 new buses would be needed to accommodate the move to Jacksonville Middle School and that bell schedules would have to be revised at elementary, middle and high schools to accommodate the change.

“Buses are not the problem,” Blake said. “The problem is bus drivers.”

He said the particulars will be posted online at least two weeks before school starts.