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$10K-plus raises granted to some IW school administrators

[Editor’s note: This is the first of a two-part series.]

ISLE OF WIGHT

Several Isle of Wight County Schools central office administrators received $10,000-plus raises at the beginning of 2019, despite assurances from the school division at the start of the 2018-2019 school year that its new administrative pay scale‚ which specified significantly higher minimum salaries for principals and some central office positions — would apply only to new hires.

The county school board had adopted the revised pay scale in June 2018, which specified that the minimum pay for assistant directors was to rise from $57,254 to $69,000. For coordinators, the minimum rose from $63,197 to $75,000; for directors, from $69,758 to $95,000; and for executive directors, from $76,999 to $105,000. The minimum assistant superintendent salary also increased from $80,898 to $115,000.

IWCS spokeswoman Lynn Briggs had told Windsor Weekly at the time that since the revised pay scale applied only to new hires, it would not translate into raises for employees already in the aforementioned positions. This appears to have indeed been true for the first half of the 2018-2019 school year.

But then, on Dec. 13, 2018, the school board voted unanimously to approve what was listed on the agenda for that evening as “administrative scale adjustments,” after discussing the matter in closed session. In a video recording of that meeting’s open session component, which is published on Isle of Wight County’s website in the county’s on-demand meeting video archives, Smithfield District school board member Kirstin Cook refers to the matter as a “two-step” process that had begun that June with the revision of the administrative pay scale.

The closed session had been the result of a request from Carrsville District school board member Jackie Carr, who said she still had questions for the division’s executive director of budget and finance, Rachel Trollinger, regarding “last-minute numbers.” Windsor District school board member Julia Perkins also expressed hesitation in voting on the matter that evening. School Board Chairwoman Vicky Hulick then informs Carr that her questions would need to be addressed in a closed session because the matter pertains to “specific people.”

As a result of the school board’s vote that evening, Trollinger and at least four other central office administrators, two of whom were already making six figures, received amended employment contracts on Jan. 4, 2019, retroactive to Jan. 1, with raises ranging from $10,937 to $14,940.

The Dec. 13 school board meeting had been held on the same day as the monthly meeting for Isle of Wight County’s Board of Supervisors, which had been rescheduled one week earlier than its typical meeting date, owing to the Christmas holiday. Windsor Weekly, as a result of this overlap, had sent this reporter to the Supervisors meeting that evening. The newspaper later learned of the $10,000-plus raises after a Smithfield resident had brought the matter up during comments she made during citizens’ time at the school board’s Oct. 10, 2019, meeting.

When asked why the school board had voted in December to move Trollinger and other central office personnel to the new pay scale, despite assurances that it would only be for new hires, Hulick explained that the school board had known in June that adopting a new pay scale just for new hires would create discrepancies in salaries between returning administrators on the old scale and new employees on the revised scale. She added that Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton had previously shared with the board that the division’s goal had always been to move everyone to the same scale to avoid issues such as supervisors making the same or less than those who report to them.

But we did not know [in June 2018] if the budget could support moving everyone over to the new scale,” Hulick said. “By this point in the year [December 2018], we had firm numbers to show that the current budget would support migrating the remaining administrators to the new pay scale.”

Briggs then added that she did not know the exact date when Thornton had first informed the school board of his plans to eventually move all administrators to the new scale, but said that he had shared that plan with them “on a couple of occasions” prior to the December vote.

He does do some one-on-one meetings with them [the school board members],” Briggs said. She added that she believed there had also been some public discussion of the matter, but that said discussion might not have shown up in the recorded minutes for school board meetings, since the minutes are summaries, and not transcripts.

Not everyone who was moved to the new pay scale, however, received a raise, nor was every raise in excess of $10,000, Hulick confirmed. The school board chairwoman explained that a formula had been used to determine what increase in salary would be given to each administrator based on the new minimums and maximums adopted in June. Those who did not receive raises, she said, were already earning at or above the new minimums.

What had been happening for many years around here, when people were hired, they would often negotiate their salary,” Briggs said, explaining that prior to the introduction of the new pay scale and salary formula, an administrator with six years of experience might have negotiated a salary higher than that of a current administrator with 10 years of experience.

Now, there’s an internal formula … so if you have 10 years of service, you’re going to make more than someone who comes in with five years of service,” Briggs said. “It’s going to be more methodical and fair.”