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School employees to get pay raise

Isle of Wight County school employees will receive a 2% cost of living increase to their wages, and bus drivers and instructional assistants will also receive a $1 an hour boost to their minimum starting salary.

The school board approved the changes at a special meeting on Jan. 6, the group’s first of the new year.

Separately from this action, in December, the board approved a new pay scale for certified teachers that will make their starting salary $44,500 for the 2021-2022 academic year, up $500 from the current year.

Superintendent Dr. Jim Thornton said the move brings Isle of Wight school employees more to the middle of the pack compensation-wise when compared to other public school divisions in Hampton Roads.

Speaking after the board’s unanimous decision, Thornton said the move was very important and a way to provide a bit more compensation to everyone in education who has persevered through unprecedented ongoing challenges and changes due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I really think our business, more than anything, is about people and the relationships we build with children. We have a quality staff from top to bottom, and I just want to make sure that all of them were rewarded for their efforts,” Thornton said.

With the raise, starting hourly pay for bus drivers is now $14.50, and instructional assistants will now make $13.55. Administrative associates and secretaries who work 11 months of the year will make $16.95 an hour, and those who work 12 months a year will make $17.60 hourly.

Thornton introduced the proposal in December, but the board balked, expressing concerns about sustaining the pay increases. The superintendent returned this month with a detailed breakdown of how the division would pay for and maintain the pay increases, as well as a snapshot of how Isle of Wight’s pay for public school employees compares in the region.

Thornton said he’s confident the changes are sustainable.

“We worked hard to look at the revenues,” Thornton said. “And I know the governor’s budget is not final, but I’ve been doing this a long time. There may be some variances in the House and Senate budget, but what we’re hearing,” Thornton said, is that legislators plan to sustain education funding at its present level.

All Isle of Wight students are currently on a remote learning plan for two weeks in an effort to mitigate an anticipated post-holiday spike in coronavirus cases due to travel and extended contact with family and friends.

The health metrics will be the guide on if, when and how students resume in-person instruction.

“We actually look at the health data every single day and meet on that, and when we have the kids in school we meet about how how many kids had to be isolated, how many kids had to be quarantined, how many kids actually tested positive, and we talk about is there a trend anywhere there within the school or the classroom.”

Thornton said it’s one of many drastic changes school leaders are dealing with this academic year. “We’re trying to stay focused on instruction, but health has risen basically to the No. 1 thing we do every day,” he said.

The board is set to meet next on Jan. 14.