Franklin superintendent proposes pay raises for teachers

Published 5:36 pm Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Public hearing on city schools’ budget scheduled for Thursday

FRANKLIN

Franklin City Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Tamara Sterling has proposed increasing teacher salaries in her draft budget for the 2020-2021 school year to match, and in some cases even exceed, those offered in Southampton County.

Currently, entry-level 10-month teachers in Franklin earn $40,000 annually — $1,000 less than their entry-level counterparts at Southampton County Public Schools. This wage gap gradually increases over the course of most of Franklin’s 39-step pay scale, with 28-year teachers at FCPS earning just over $6,000 less than county teachers with the same number of years’ experience ($50,510 compared to $56,554).

Southampton County’s pay scale currently ends at step 29, with 10-month teachers who have 29 or more years’ experience earning $57,108. In addition to matching Southampton’s teacher salaries exactly through this step, Sterling proposes that Franklin adopt a 0.75-percent step increase for each year of experience thereafter through step 39, which will place teachers with 30 or more years of experience in Franklin ahead of their counterparts in the county salary-wise. Implementing the new teacher pay scale, according to Sterling, will require a budget increase for the school division of roughly $270,000 to $280,000, depending on whether a 3-percent raise for teachers included in Gov. Ralph Northam’s proposed state budget passes the Virginia General Assembly.

According to Charles Pyle, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Education, the state-funded portion of teacher raises typically only cover what are known as standards of quality instructional and support positions. Virginia’s standards of quality establish minimum staffing levels for positions on a per-pupil basis and allocate funds to ensure these positions are filled. The draft state budget further states that this raise is to be implemented over the 2020-2022 biennium, meaning some school divisions may choose to delay implementation until the 2021-2022 school year or spread the raise over the next two school years.

In addition to revising Franklin’s teacher pay scale, Sterling has also proposed higher pay for teacher assistants, raising the minimum starting salary from $12,500 to $15,500. Salaries for secretaries and bookkeepers are also proposed to go up by about 5 percent, and bus drivers are also to receive a raise, the amount of which is yet to be determined. Also included in her proposed budget is an increase in the hourly wage paid to school custodians to a minimum of $15, as well as $205,000 in additional requested funding for new positions.

These include an administrator at S.P. Morton Elementary School at $65,000, one full-time equivalent gifted teacher at $40,000 and three school resource officers — one for each school — budgeted at $100,000. According to Sterling, it has not been determined yet whether these SROs will be Franklin Police officers or Southampton County Sheriff’s Office deputies.

“If the funding is approved, the school division will work with law enforcement to determine how they can support filling the positions within the school division,” she said.

A public hearing on her proposed budget is scheduled for this Thursday, Feb. 27, in the council chamber of City Hall, located at 207 W. Second Ave., Franklin. A closed session will begin at 6 p.m. with an open session following at 7 p.m. The public hearing on the budget will begin after citizens’ time. According to Tammy Moore, school board clerk and executive assistant to the superintendent, a draft budget will be available on Friday, March 6. As such, dollar amounts for the division’s total proposed operating budget, its projected state and federal funding, and its local funding request to Franklin’s City Council are not currently included in the presentation Sterling will make to the school board prior to the start of the public hearing. She did, however, specify that these salary increases are proposed to come from local funding, adding that the school division plans to request an increase of just under $1 million from City Council.

Last year, the school division proposed a total budget of $16.8 million, with just over $5 million coming from city funds.