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Schools consider 10 percent supplement for teachers


By Amber Revels-Stocks
Staff Writer

Friday, March 22, 2019

The Pitt County Board of Education wants to meet with the county commissioners to discuss plans for a proposed supplement increase for teachers.

Currently, beginning teachers in the first three years of service receive a 3 percent supplement and proficient teachers receive a 5.25 percent supplement to state salaries.

The school board would like to increase the local supplement to 10 percent by the 2021-22 school year. However, that increase would cost $5.9 million across the district, according to chief finance officer Debra Baggett.

“Supplements are a priority for the board,” Baggett said at Monday’s meeting as she reviewed a spreadsheet showing the projected cost of several possible supplements. “Tell me what you want to request, and I’ll put it in the (proposed budget).”

At the Feb. 18 work session, Baggett presented the board with a comparison of supplements in several surrounding counties. One of those counties has a 10 percent supplement for its teachers; several board members expressed their support of a similar rate in Pitt County.

“Since last month, I talked to that county, and they say 10 percent is becoming a burden,” Baggett said Monday. “When the state (salary) increases, the county has to increase (the supplement).”

Vice chairwoman Betsy Flanagan felt the local supplement needs to be at 10 percent before House Bill 90 comes into effect in the 2021-22 school year. This bill would decrease class sizes in kindergarten through third grades, resulting in Pitt County Schools needing more teachers.

“We need to meet with the county commissioners and come to an agreement,” school board member Benjie Forrest said. “With their cooperation, we can say ‘This is our time limit.’ and try to meet it.”

Flanagan asked, “When you take the budget to the county commissioners, are you able to say our board thinks we need to be at 10 percent in X number of years?”

Superintendent Ethan Lenker could do that, but he felt the two boards needed to meet and discuss the possibility.

“If that’s truly what we want to do, we need to have a real dialogue,” he said. “We talked to them several years ago (about supplement increases). We want to keep the conversation alive.”

School board member Caroline Doherty said it might be helpful to reframe the discussion by focusing on how much more money could be brought into the county through revenue and taxes.

“These (teachers) will be tax-paying residents that will have solid jobs for 30 years,” she said. “Education is a driver of the economy in our county, not just in Greenville and Winterville.”

Chairwoman Anna Barrett Smith added, “Being able to quantify the impact on the county will help us get our brains around why (supplements) are a benefit for the county.”

School board member Worth Forbes emphasized that supplements have to come with financial support from the county commissioners.

“We don’t want to overextend and have to cut back on programs that are working,” he said. “We need to work together.”

Baggett also presented the board with a proposal for an additional supplement for “hard to fill positions at hard to fill schools.”

This 5 percent supplement would be given to all math, science and exceptional children teachers at Wellcome and Farmville middle schools and Farmville Central and North Pitt high schools.

These schools have difficulty recruiting and retaining teachers, especially in those three areas, according to Lenker.

For 40 teachers, the supplement would cost almost $140,000.

“There are lots of pros and cons to this. I understand that,” Lenker said. “We’re not trying to downgrade any teaching positions; we need them all. … There was only one person to graduate from ECU in math in December.”

The district is working to encourage teachers to become dual certified in science and math to try to combat this difficulty. If a teacher in the district is interested in becoming dual certified, Pitt County Schools pays for them to take the test for the other certification.

The proposed local budget will be presented May 7 to the county commissioners.

Contact Amber Revels Stocks at arevels-stocks@ncweeklies.com