IWCS: Salaries adjusted to align with other divisions

Published 6:04 pm Friday, November 8, 2019


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


Public records, which Carrollton resident Lawrence Rotruck obtained via a Freedom of Information Act request, and provided to The Tidewater News, confirm that four of the five administrators to receive $10,000-plus raises in January would have otherwise been earning less than the new minimums specified in the revised pay scale for their job titles. The fifth, who also would have otherwise been earning less than the new minimum for his position had he remained a coordinator, was promoted to director and received a commensurate $23,110 raise, putting him $3,000 above the new $95,000 minimum for directors. Assistant Superintendent Mike Lombardo, however, who was already earning roughly $4,500 above the new $115,000 minimum assistant superintendent salary, also received a raise of just under $2,000 during the middle of the 2018-2019 school year, making his new salary for the remainder of that school year and for the 2019-2020 school year over $121,000 according to the division’s adopted 2019-2020 budget. Lombardo’s raise equates to a 1.65-percent increase.

The school board’s decision to move all current IWCS administrators to the new pay scale also appears to conflict with the recommendation the division’s executive director of human resources, Cheryl Elliott, had made to the board in January 2018 when she presented the results of an employee compensation study she had begun in September 2017. Elliott’s study, as reported at the time, had proposed giving all administrators a 2-percent increase in pay for the 2018-2019 school year, which was projected to cost the division an extra $114,048.

School Board chairwoman Vicky Hulick, when asked about this, said the cost to implement a 2-percent raise that Elliott had shared “was not presented as a recommendation,” but rather “solely as a point of reference for board members.”

Had a flat 2-percent raise been approved, it would not have addressed the salaries that needed to be adjusted to bring them in alignment wth other divisions and the new scale,” she said.

When asked why the school board’s discussion of moving current administrators to the new pay scale had been done in closed session, when its discussion of the pay scale itself in June 2018 and its discussion of giving Supt. Dr. Jim Thornton a $10,000-plus raise in 2017 had been done in open session, Hulick said that personnel matters are always discussed in closed session.

With this topic [the December 2018/January 2019 raises], the board would have been discussing specific individuals and their salaries,” she said. “With regards to Dr. Thornton’s salary being discussed in open session, the board elected to provide clarifying comments during open session about the raise for Dr. Thornton. While it was not required, we felt it was necessary to provide context to the approved raise since it had been covered in the local papers as well as at prior board meetings during the board comment period and citizens’ remarks. We wanted to make sure the citizens understood the parameters involved with the raise.”

According to attorney Alan Gernhardt, who serves as executive director of Virginia’s Freedom of Information Advisory Council, Virginia’s Freedom of Information Act allows 51 reasons for public bodies to hold closed-session meetings, one of which, as Hulick referenced, is the discussion of specific employees’ salaries. The FOIA Advisory Council is a state agency tasked with answering questions from private citizens, state and local public officials and the media about access to public records and meetings. Gernhardt, however, said that this exemption is limited to discussing individuals, as opposed to adjusting pay scales for a class or category of employees, which would need to be done in open session.

Public bodies are not required to hold closed meetings,” Gernhardt said. “The school board could choose to discuss some employees’ salaries in open meeting and other employees’ salaries in closed meeting.”