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Orange teachers deserve raises, school board told
BY DAN McFARLAND
THE FREE LANCE-STAR
The Orange County Education Association says competitive salaries are needed to keep teachers in the county.
Kyle Wormuth, speaking for that association during the public comment period of this week's School Board meeting, said his group continues to support efforts to provide high-quality education despite budgetary challenges.
"Our students deserve a school system that will serve as a home to educators and students alike, rather than a steppingstone to something else," Wormuth said.
"We may not ever compete with [Northern Virginia] and Albemarle, but let's do enough to keep our great people who want to remain here. Moving to one of those other school divisions should not be the only path to a rising income."
Superintendent Bob Grimesey's proposed budget calls for a 2 percent salary increase for employees. Gov. Bob McDonnell's budget includes funds for a 2 percent increase for teachers, guidance counselors, librarians, instructional assistants, principals and assistant principals. Funding for a similar increase for support positions (administrators, clerical, custodial, maintenance and technology staff) was not included in the governor's plan, but both the Senate and House have so far included it in theirs.
Data presented by the school administration noted that Orange County salaries trail all neighboring school divisions except Madison County, and rank fourth among eight "most similar" rural counties in Virginia. The report also cited "serious structural flaws" in Orange County's pay scales, including too many steps, less competitive salaries at higher levels and discrepancies in differences between the individual steps. Last year, the School Board began a five-year plan to remedy those problems.
"This year's budget," Wormuth said, "is one that still reflects the wounds of 2009 and 2010, yet there are signs of healing."
Orange County's operating expenditure per pupil for the 2010-11 fiscal year ranked lowest in Virginia at $8,325.
Prior to voting unanimously to support Grimesey's proposed $46 million budget for presentation to the county Board of Supervisors, School Board members commented that they would have preferred to be asking for a larger budget this year, but that the current proposal represented the school system's best effort at this time, given the economic climate.
"We are not giving our teachers raises," Board member Sherrie Page said at Monday's meeting. "We are trying to put them on the same playing field."
Board Chairwoman Judy Carter complimented Grimesey and his staff for crafting the proposed budget. "You've gotten it down to bare bones," she said. "We need to encourage, not just our employees, but the community and parents to come out and show support for our public school system."