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Board hears more about pay raises
Continues class-size exceptions
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The established, annual experience raises for Bulloch County Schools support personnel, such as custodians, cooks and classroom paraprofessionals, range from 10 cents per hour each of the first five years on the job to 21 cents per hour for years 16-20.

Evonn Key, a paraprofessional at Langston Chapel Middle School, had spoken to the Board of Education a month ago asking for a raise for these employees. A teacher also spoke for teacher raises. Then, in a budget presentation April 24, Chief Financial Officer Troy Brown noted that step increases for teachers as well as support personnel were already part of the budget, as they had been through years of budget cuts.

At Thursday night’s meeting, Key again spoke during public participation time, telling board members that the amount of the raises is an important point.

“An article in the Statesboro Herald stated that we a get a pay raise, that our pay raise was there all along,” Key said. “I would like for the county to publicize the amount of these raises that we get.”

She then cited the ranges of step raises for the Bulloch County School’s “classified” personnel, those without teaching or administrative certificates. The raises in hourly pay are 10 cents each year for employees with one to five years of service, 13 cents each year in the sixth through the 10th year, 16 cents in years 11-15, and 21 cents for years 16-20.

“Do you feel that this is an ample amount of money to pay the people who are committed to working with our children daily?” Key asked.

Parapros, she said, work hard to make a difference in children’s lives, offering encouragement and re-teaching the material presented by teachers.

“Yet when you look at how we rank on the hourly scale of classified employees, we are near the bottom,” she said.

Key has been working in the school system for 24 years and so is past the 21-year cutoff for receiving annual increases. She did not list the actual wages.

Hayley Greene, the public relations specialist for the Board of Education, supplied information about local paraprofessional wages at the newspaper’s request. The average base wage is $10.03 per hour, she said.

After the annual pay increases reach the 20-year maximum, a Parapro 1, with a high school diploma only, makes $14.23 per hour. There are higher pay brackets for a Parapro 2 with some postsecondary education and a Parapro 3 with a two-year college degree or more.

Another employee, Dorus McCollum, who has been a school custodian 29 years and now works at Langston Chapel Elementary School, also spoke Thursday night.

“I feel it takes the custodians to keep the school going, as well as it takes the lunchroom workers to keep the school going, and I feel that today due to the cost of living, we really do need a raise,” she told the board.

Several other school employees who attended applauded Key’s and McCollum’s remarks.

With the state partially restoring Quality Basic Education funding lost to previous austerity cuts, the Bulloch County Schools are projected to receive $4 million more in fiscal year 2015, which begins July 1, than in fiscal year 2014, now concluding.

Superintendent Charles Wilson has made eliminating furlough days and restoring all employees to a full year’s pay the priority. The budget he and Brown have presented for the board’s consideration does that, but it does not include any raises above the step increases, which are mandated by the state for teachers but locally funded for other school employees.

Another budget-related item presented for the board’s consideration was a resolution to take advantage of a class-size waiver from the State Board of Education. For five years now, the Bulloch County Schools have used such a waiver to let the size of some classes exceed the maximums previously set by the state.

The waiver allows up to five more students per classroom. For example, a regular first-, second-, or third-grade class may have a maximum of 21 students without a waiver, but may have up to 26 with Bulloch County’s requested waiver. Maximums vary for different grade levels and programs.

“We believe, as everything we understand, this is the last year that we will be able to request a class-size waiver,” Wilson said. “That’s something that’s going away.”

By June 30, 2015, the local school system will have to choose from new “flexibility options” established by the state, some of which allow more local choice in class sizes.

Using waivers, which the state has allowed since the 2008 recession, the Bulloch County schools increased the size of some classes and eliminated 97 jobs by attrition over the past five years. In combination with 18 furlough days from fiscal years 2010 through 2014, the revised staffing formula reduced the school system’s budget by more than $4.1 million, according to a statement Greene provided.

Some Bulloch County Board of Education members and candidates identify improving employee pay and reducing class sizes as priorities. Next week, the Statesboro Herald will publish a series of profiles on members up for election and their challengers.

Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9454.

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