Richmond Public Schools teachers on Monday night called on the city’s school board to make re-configuring the division’s salary scale a top priority – on par with repairing the division’s dilapidated facilities.
Supt. Dana Bedden’s $298 million estimate of needs for the 2017 school year includes $8.4 million to adjust the division’s compensation salary step scale, which dictates how much a teacher is paid based on the number of years they have worked. The sum will cover raises for certain employees based on the number of years they have worked in the division. Bedden has touted the plan as a way to help the division retain and attract teachers.
As a result of a series of freezes, a teacher with nine years of classroom experience in Richmond Public Schools makes the same amount as a first-year teacher. That sends the wrong message to teachers who have been loyal to the division, says Charlotte Hayer, president of the Richmond Education Association.
“We have too many people who have worked for too long and stayed on the same step,” Hayer says. “It’s unfair.”
About 10 teachers advocated for the proposal during a scheduled public hearing, the first of the budget season. LaDonna Freeman, a special education teacher at Bellevue Elementary, says she has seen co-workers leave for higher paying jobs in neighboring districts. They have been replaced by less experienced teachers and the school’s performance has been hurt as a result, she says. “Richmond has transitioned into a training district for Henrico, Hanover and Chesterfield counties,” she says.
Victoria Carll, a teacher at Open High, made a more personal plea for the board to endorse the proposal.
“I drive a 13-year old car with a check engine light that’s perpetually on … I do not have a savings account that’s reliable in any way. … I’m struggling financially, and I’m embarrassed to say that.”
Chris Lombardi, a teacher at Mary Munford Elementary, says a more equitable pay scale is just as important to the division’s future as improving its buildings.
“Improved facilities are important, but attracting and retaining competent teachers is important, too,” Lombardi says. “You can have state-of-the-art facilities … but if you don’t have a qualified teacher at the front of the classroom, what good is any of it?”
The board has several budget work sessions scheduled in the next few weeks.
In other business, the board selected Northside representative and potential mayoral candidate Jeff Bourne as chairman. He first served in the role in 2013.
“I just want to thank the school board for their vote of confidence,” he says. “It’s my hope and expectation that we can move forward and continue the progress we have sustained already.”
Don Coleman, who served the last two years as chair, will replace Kristen Larsen as vice chair.
Both votes tallied 7-1 with one abstention. Mamie Taylor, who nominated herself for both roles, was the lone no in each case. Tichi Pinkney Eppes abstained each time.