Salary increase bittersweet for Washington County Board of Education

Nathan Baker • Nov 8, 2013 at 9:02 PM

Washington County Board of Education members questioned the equity of hundreds of thousands of dollars from the state aimed at providing a salary increase for the district’s teachers.

Although the 1.5 percent, one-time salary increase approved by the General Assembly is a welcome and deserved bonus for the approximately 50 certified teachers in the district, the board members lamented its inability to provide a similar benefit for other school support staff.

“The problem is, the state doesn’t realize that it takes bus drivers, IAs, it takes custodians to make a school system run,” member David Hammond said. “So the state puts their local districts in a heck of a position, because it’s just not balanced.”

The approved measure, which prompted Hammond to call the Nashville politicians “clowns,” granted the district enough money from state BEP funding to provide a salary increase only for district employees who hold a professional certification.

Most of the board members, visibly upset with the decision forced upon them by the state, approved the bonus after searching fruitlessly for a way to give the rest of the district’s employees a similar benefit.

To give all employees the extra $550 granted to the teachers, it would cost the district an additional $338,000.

“I’m very happy the certified teachers are able to get that, it’s a very warranted bonus for them, but it does bother me that we’re not able to extend it on to other employees,” Board of Education member Todd Ganger said. “I apologize to the other employees for that, but our hands are tied. I hate having separation when it comes to employees like that.”

Director of Schools Ron Dykes said the measure was approved by the state to encourage a movement to merit-based pay for teachers, something Gov. Bill Haslam and state Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman have long advocated.

By taking the extra BEP funding, the district will now be required to develop and submit a differentiated pay plan to be approved by the education department.

“The state really wants the salary of teachers realigned to encourage a high success rate on performance indicators,” Dykes said Friday. “But it puts the local boards and funding bodies in a real squeeze, because in essence, it throws 100 percent of any additional increases to them.”

The certified employees in the district should receive the one-time bonuses near mid-December.

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