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Teachers, support personnel look to board for raises
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After the Bulloch County Board of Education increased Superintendent Charles Wilson’s salary in his new two-year contract and heard a report of increased state funding, teachers and other school employees voiced a desire for raises.

Noting that she is also a Bulloch County taxpayer and parent, Southeast Bulloch Middle School teacher Tracey Simons presented a letter to board members at their April 10 meeting. She asked for an explanation of the board’s promising Wilson a $20,000 raise in the first year of the new contract followed by a $10,000 increase, if goals are met, the second year. Bulloch County teachers had their pay reduced by furlough days the past five years, she said.

“The duties and responsibilities of the role of teacher have not been lessened as a result of being furloughed,” Simons stated in the letter. “In our salaried position, a furlough is simply a pay cut; so not only have we not received any kind of raise, we continue to earn less money than we did five years ago.”

She also cited changes in benefits, increased class sizes and teacher attrition.

“We need more teachers, not ‘directors’ at the central office,” Simons said.

In a preliminary report at the previous meeting, Chief Financial Officer Troy Brown listed $4 million in state funding expected to be restored to the Bulloch County Schools in the new fiscal year that begins July 1. A central-office math content specialist, a science content specialist and an instructional technology specialist are among eight new hires Wilson and Brown showed some of the money funding. Meanwhile, $1 million of the $4 million increase is state-mandated to go to certain purposes, including about $500,000 for regularly scheduled raises teachers get for years of experience or added education. These step raises were never eliminated but have been counteracted to some extent by furloughs.

Evonn Key, a Langston Chapel Middle School paraprofessional who also spoke during the April 10 meeting, asked the board to do something for the pay of paraprofessionals and support personnel.

“I give it all I have, all the time, and I have not received a raise in I don’t know when,” said Key, who has been working in the school system more than 20 years. “I just think it’s time that we put parapros, custodians, everybody up front and let them know you appreciate them.”

Wilson’s salary

The board approved Wilson’s contract March 13. Previously $135,000, his salary will be $155,000 in the first year of the new contract. It will rise to $165,000 the second year, subject to a review, before March 31, 2015, of “progress toward agreed-upon initiatives.”

These are strategic initiatives Wilson and the board are to select from those in the school system’s strategic plan, adopted last year.

The raises, according to Board of Education Vice Chairman Mike Herndon and Wilson, are an effort by the board to put his salary in line with those of superintendents in similar-size systems.

“It was not necessarily catching up but was just more or less bringing it into a range that is within the parameters of what a superintendent of a school system our size gets paid,” Herndon said.

With this in mind and with certain qualifications being met, the board members agreed to the raises, with further conditions, he added.

Herndon was interviewed Tuesday after Chairman Maurice Hill did not respond to calls last week seeking an interview.

The board selected Wilson as superintendent in June 2012 from 33 applicants for the job. Previously in charge of the Bulloch County Schools’ financial reporting for 16 years, first as chief financial officer and then as an assistant superintendent, he had a Master of Business Administration degree and has been a certified public accountant for 20 years. But he was not certified as a school system administrator.

So the board hired him at a lower salary than the previous superintendent with the understanding that he would obtain L5 leadership certification within two years. Wilson did it in one year, he noted in an interview.

Another condition for improved pay after the first two-year contract was that he put a strategic plan in place for the school system. This addressed a deficiency that had been noted by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the accrediting agency.

Certified in strategic planning from his business background, Wilson led the process rather than hire consultant to lead it, and the plan is in place, he noted.

So the raises are the board following through on the idea that, with Wilson’s first two years’ objectives met, he would move toward an average salary for a superintendent of a school system with about 10,000 students.

“That was something the board and I agree on together,” Wilson said. “They took a chance on hiring a nontraditional superintendent. I took a chance and said, I have a vision for some things we want to change.”

Using October 2013 full-time-equivalent, or FTE, student counts from the Georgia Department of Education’s website and 2013 salary information from the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts available at, Bulloch County had the lowest superintendent salary of any county system in the 9,500- to roughly 10,500-student range.

Bulloch County Schools then had 9,991 students by the FTE count. Although officially $135,000, Wilson’s 2013 salary, like those of some other superintendents, was reduced by furlough days and was $130,408.

Other systems in the range were Colquitt County, with 9,668 students and a $178,827 superintendent salary; Liberty County, with 10,210 students and paying $196,019; Floyd County, with 10,292 students and paying $142,582; and Lowndes County, with 10,511 students and paying $174,120. The average of those five salaries is roughly $165,000.

Raises for others?

Herndon declined to discuss whether raises for teachers or support personnel will be possible. He said he did not want to be perceived as speaking for the whole board and suggested this might await further discussion at another meeting.

Wilson says the school system is committed to restoring a full work calendar for all employees, first.

“The next thing we need to be looking at is how competitive are our salaries by every group – teachers, every employee category,” he said. “We need to be looking at that from an evidence-based approach.”

But in considering raises, he said, the school system must proceed cautiously.

“We’re the second largest employer in this community and we’re the largest local tax collector and spender in this community,” Wilson said, adding that he and the board have responsibilities to employees, but also to taxpayers and the community. He said he is open to discussions with the board about keeping salaries competitive but reiterated that restoring the full work calendar, with full pay for all school personnel, should come first.

Today’s Board of Education, at 6:30 p.m., is a work session, with discussion of the budget slated.

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

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