Del. Roslyn Tyler tours Riverdale

Published 3:08 pm Saturday, December 8, 2018

On Thursday morning, Virginia Delegate Roslyn Tyler (D-75) toured Riverdale Elementary School, accompanied by Virginia Secretary of Education Atif Qarni.

Among the classrooms toured were a fifth grade computer science immersion room, and the Lifesavers for Readers room, which houses the school’s Lifesavers for Readers volunteer program. Volunteers in this program, which is run by Betty Mann, are paired with a student throughout the school year, and assist the student with his or her reading skills. Tyler toured several other classrooms containing grades  Pre-K through fifth.

Following the tour, Tyler and Qarni met with Riverdale Principal Will Melbye, Southampton County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Gwendolyn Shannon, and several Riverdale teachers to discuss state-level legislation that could impact the school and county.

“We’re working on SOL (Standards of Learning) reform,” Tyler said, also mentioning that teacher salaries and retention were priorities.

When teachers were given the opportunity to bring concerns to Tyler’s attention, second grade teacher Michele Winters agreed that teacher salaries and retention were important issues.

“My husband is the PE teacher, and we’re the exception to the rule — we’ve stayed in the county,” Winters said. “Tech, blue collar work, medical — that’s where it’s at right now.”

According to Southampton County Public Schools’ website, the starting pay for a teacher without prior experience is $39,585. This rises to $54,904 for a teacher with 30 or more years of experience.

By comparison, Franklin City Public Schools, according to its website, offered a salary of $40,000 for 10-month teachers with a bachelor’s degree but no experience during the 2017-2018 school year, with an additional $2,000 for those with a post-undergraduate degree or certificate. The salary for 10-month teachers in Franklin with 38 or more years of experience but no post-undergraduate degree or certifications is $58,807.

In Isle of Wight County Schools, according to the division’s website, the salary for 10-month teachers without experience is $41,310, with between $1,500 to $2,750 in additional pay offered for certifications and/or a post-undergraduate degree. The salary for 10-month teachers in Isle of Wight County with more than 30 years of experience is $70,537, with the additional $1,500 to $2,750 still offered for certifications and/or a post-undergraduate degree.

Melbye also brought up Southampton County’s lack of access to broadband internet as an ongoing issue.

“Because of how rural we are, there’s only one place you can get high-speed internet — that’s in Courtland,” Melbye said.

He added that the school division uses internet-based teaching tools such as JASON Learning, but if students don’t have the needed internet access “it means nothing.”

On the topic of teacher salaries, Shannon added that if the state gives teachers a 1- to 2-percent increase and then the cost of health insurance goes up 13 percent, “it’s a negative.”ac