IW school board considers giving superintendent raise

Published 10:35 am Monday, May 15, 2017

The Isle of Wight County School Board is considering giving their superintendent, Dr. Jim Thornton, a raise for his next, and likely last, four-year contract with the division. The discussion occurred during the board’s regular scheduled meeting, held on Thursday evening at Georgie D. Tyler Middle School.

According to Lynn Briggs, the division’s director of gifted services, community and media relations, the specific dollar amount or percent increase being considered has not yet been released to the public. However, some speakers were under the impression that the division was considering awarding Thornton a 14 percent increase.

Citizens who spoke on the proposed raise for Thornton included Albert Burckard Jr., Dick Grice and Michael Uzzle. Burckard said that he would strongly oppose the raise if Thornton planned to move out of the county after retiring but would view it more favorably if he planned to stay connected with the school community.

“It’s nothing to do with you personally; I think you’ve done a fine job,” Burckard said. “Your retirement salary and benefit is based on the last three years of employment so this will affect that dramatically… I don’t see any particular need for a pay raise. You agreed to a particular rate of salary.”

Grice suggested giving Thornton only a nominal pay raise adjusted for cost of living, and giving him the opportunity to earn more via a merit-based bonus system tied to school division performance and the implementation of the new in-house CTE program.

“Let’s say that during the first year [of the CTE program] they set goals for a $25,000 bonus and he makes 70 percent of them because some are very difficult to achieve,” Grice said. “Well, at 70 percent, he’s got his $18,000, but if he can make 90 percent, he’s probably going to have more like $21,000-22,000. The reason I suggest we do it this way is I want to see Dr. Thornton stay here and make this CTE program an award-winning program.”

Grice added that the $18,000 to $25,000 was an arbitrary number he was using just as an example and that he did not know yet what amount or percent raise was being considered.

Uzzle said that he felt the division’s bus drivers should get a raise before considering giving any additional salary to the superintendent, calling the drivers the “backbone” of the division. He also expressed concerns that he felt some qualified African American teachers may have been passed over for consideration for the division’s teacher of the year.

Several school board members also expressed support for giving Thornton a raise.

“Every time an administrator’s salary gets raised, feathers get ruffled, but I love what he’s done with the CTE courses,” said Smithfield District school board member Kirstin Cook.

“We work really hard to see that our teachers have comparable pay [to other divisions]; our superintendent, given his years of experience, is definitely on the low side,” said Carrsville school board member Jackie Carr. “I have witnessed first-hand a hardworking superintendent who is passionate about bringing his vision to life, so based on other superintendents’ salaries I definitely support it.”

“I’m not opposed to a raise but instead of it being a hunk at the beginning, I believe it should be rolled out over time,” said Newport District school board member Vicky Hulick. “Fourteen percent is a lot to do all at once.”

During the board’s financial report, the division’s director of budget and finance Rachel Yates announced that the county had successfully closed on a bond issuance for the division’s $7.9 million loan on May 5 and that the county had received the funds later that afternoon. She added that the division’s revised budget includes slightly less than the $750,000 annual deduction they expected from the county annually in repayment for the loan, and that the county’s Board of Supervisors had allowed the division to retain the additional $34,100 per year that would not be necessary to repay the loan. The school board voted unanimously to appropriate that additional $34,100 into their budget for the 2017-2018 school year and allocate it to CTE-related materials.

The board also voted unanimously to approve a new payroll calendar for the coming school year, which now specifies pay periods two times per month and voted unanimously to approve the proposed pay scales for administrators, teachers, staff and substitutes. The division anticipates no rate increase for employee health and dental insurance policies but has not yet determined which insurance provider or plans will be offered for the coming year. The division’s finance staff is currently debating between staying with Optima versus switching to Cigna.

The board concluded by tabling its vote on revisions to their tuition policy for out-of-area students pending further investigation into how neighboring divisions handle the issue. The board expects to further discuss and possibly take action on the proposed raise for Thornton during their June meeting.