SALEM – The Salem City School Board and school administration learned Tuesday evening that the division has gone from leading five of seven categories during the 2009-10 school year to just two of seven categories in the 2014-15 school year in Roanoke Valley teacher salary scales.
After a special recognition ceremony and reception for its Teacher of the Year at each of the division’s schools, the school board convened a special meeting to pass its 2015-2016 budget, and heard reports from some of its administrators. Salem City Schools Supervisor of Human Resources Kirstine Barber delivered the annual report about teacher salary scales with a PowerPoint presentation that included graphs comparing Salem’s salaries for newly arriving and veteran teachers to Roanoke County, Roanoke City, Botetourt County, Montgomery County and Franklin County Schools.
Barber noted that one of the salary scale categories in which Salem still leads the region is teachers with zero years of experience. The graph showed a 3.98 percent increase in beginning teacher pay, going from just over $40,000 in 2009-10 to $42,000 annually in 2014-15. The second-highest starting salaries in the region belong to Roanoke City Schools, which went from about $37,000 to $39,000 in the same span of time. However, even as Salem still leads the Roanoke Valley school divisions in beginning teacher salaries, Barber pointed out the division’s state ranking for starting salaries dropped from 12th to 22nd in those five years.
For compensation of teachers with 30 years of experience, Barber reported that Salem has been surpassed by Roanoke City and Roanoke County Schools within the last five years. Salem’s state rank fell from 31st to 37th in that category, while Roanoke City rose from 48th to 34th and Roanoke County from 55th to 32nd. Barber added that Botetourt County, which rose from 82nd to 53rd, and Montgomery County, 57th to 46th, are gradually catching up.
According to Barber’s chart, the average salary for Salem teachers with 30 years of experience was nearly $59,000 annually in 2009-10 and is just over $60,000 in the 2014-15 school year.
Finally, Barber compared the Roanoke Valley school divisions’ salaries for the next five years, following the same percent increase they had each shown from 2009-10 to 2014-15. The projection showed that following its 3.9 percent increase over the next five years, Salem would still lead the other divisions in beginning teacher salaries in the 2019-20 school year, with Botetourt County and Roanoke City closely behind.
Meanwhile, following its current 2.6 percent of change in five years, Salem would only lead Franklin County in salaries for teachers with 30 years of experience. Roanoke County is projected to lead the Roanoke Valley schools in that category, followed by Roanoke City.
Barber summarized that Salem City Schools needs to focus on what it can do better to retain veteran teachers and be more competitive with surrounding school districts moving forward. She also noted that a yearly review of benefits offered to personnel is an important component and should be considered when recruiting new employees and retaining veteran staff.
“One thing we added to the salary study this year was to look at our benefit package and how that compares,” Barber said. “Some of the feedback we’ve gotten from new teachers who have come from other school divisions is that, yes, we do pay better, but the benefits package actually makes the income significantly less.”
Superintendent Dr. Alan Seibert and members of the school board agreed that the presentation gave helpful insight to some changes that might need to be made. Seibert explained that Salem was in a similar situation and “losing ground” in 2007 when the city implemented a new salary scale.
“It is a little disturbing,” said Seibert. “But it’s not the first time we’ve been here.”
Barber added that many teachers who come to Salem have commended the division for its culture and for the level of support from the school board and administration. Chairman David Preston said he had also received positive feedback about the culture of Salem’s schools, and he and other members of the board agreed with Barber that retaining quality employees was the key to future success.
“I think that’s what the focus needs to be is doing right by our employees,” said Assistant Superintendent for Instruction Curtis Hicks.
2015-16 school year budget passes
Also during the special meeting Tuesday, the Salem City School Board approved its 2015-16 budget, totaling $46,206,027.
The breakdown includes a school fund of $42,287,112, grant funds in the amount of $2,232,128 and a cafeteria fund of $1,686,787. Included is an estimated 10 percent increase in health insurance costs and fees associated with the Affordable Care Act, the cost of an average 1.5 percent raise for all staff, the cost to fund one grade level of Chromebooks at Salem High School, an increased position at the high school for special education due to increased caseloads, the movement of a federally funded position to local dollars at East Salem Elementary to free up professional development funds for staff and increasing crossing guard staff by one employee to improve traffic flow and security at East Salem in the mornings and the high school in the afternoons.
After the school board unanimously approved the budget, it also approved a student and adult lunch price increase of 5 cents for the next school year. Assistant Superintendent Mike Bryant explained that the increase is federally mandated and will continue to increase each year until lunch prices are $2.54. He said currently the rate is $2.30 at Salem’s middle and high schools and is $2.20 at elementary schools.