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IW superintendent gets $21K raise

Following a closed-session discussion, Isle of Wight County’s School Board voted on June 10 to give Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton a $21,000 raise, bringing his annual salary to roughly $186,000.

The School Board had renewed its contract with Thornton last year, agreeing to keep him in his leadership role through June 30, 2023, and increasing his earnings from the $161,808 he’d been earning by 2% to a new rate of just over $165,000 at the start of the 2020-2021 school year. Per that contract, Thornton would receive additional 2% raises at the start of the 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 school years only if the School Board approved a 2% cost of living increase for all school division employees.

The $186,000 figure amounts to a 13% raise, though teachers only received a 2% raise this past January and will receive another 3% come July 1 per the 5% statewide teacher raises Virginia’s General Assembly included in its biennial 2020-2022 budget last year.

“When we looked at Dr. Thornton’s salary, we quickly saw his salary was far from comparable to surrounding districts’ superintendents,” said School Board Chairwoman Jackie Carr on her Carrsville District School Board Facebook page June 15.

Thornton, who began his tenure in Isle of Wight in 2015 with a salary of $142,500, now has roughly 17 years of experience as a superintendent, having previously served in that role with Mecklenburg County and Cumberland County public schools. Surry County, by comparison, pays Superintendent Dr. Serbrenia Sims $175,000 according to a comparison of regional superintendent salaries supplied by the School Board. Sims is in her first year as a superintendent, having previously been an assistant superintendent for Surry from 2009 through 2020.

Isle of Wight County Schools has more than 5,000 students enrolled. Surry has fewer than 1,000. Gloucester County Public Schools, which is the closest in size to Isle of Wight in the region with roughly 4,000 students, pays its superintendent more than $200,000 annually, according to the salary comparison.

But keeping Thornton’s salary competitive wasn’t the only reason for the raise, Carr said. It was also in recognition of his leading the division through COVID-19 while being one of only two Hampton Roads school divisions to bring students back last September, and his past achievements such as the multimillion dollar career and technical education renovations he oversaw in 2017.