The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education unanimously approved a plan Tuesday night to increase the salaries of teachers, certified support staff and classified employees in the current school year.
The school board took that action during its first in-person meeting since March amid the coronavirus pandemic. A group of 22 people attended the meeting, and they submitted to symptom and temperature screenings when they arrived at the Education Building at 4801 Bethania Station Road.
The board members and attendees wore masks and socially distanced themselves from each other. Six board members, Chairwoman Malishai Woodbury, Lida Calvert Hayes, Dana Caudill Jones, Leah Crawley, Deanna Kaplan and Marilyn Parker attended the meeting in person.
Board members Barbara Burke, Andrea Bramer and Elisabeth Motsinger attended the meeting remotely.
Under the compensation plan, teachers and certified support staff will receive a $2,000 increase in their salaries beginning in the current 2020-21 school year, Andrea Gillus, the district's chief financial officer, told the school board. Those employees must have worked at least 120 days in the 2019-20 school year, she said.
The district's certified support staff include instructional coordinators, social workers, instructional coaches, audiologists who work with exceptional children, speech/language pathologists who work with exceptional children, educational diagnosticians, instructional facilitators, media coordinators, school counselors, school nurses and school psychologists.
The salaries for the teachers and certified support staff will be distributed from the projected $11 million that will be generated from the quarter-cent county sales-tax increase, Gillus said.
"If future years, if sales revenue increases, the additional revenue can be used to provide a graduated schedule to address local governments in priority order for beginning, mid-range and veteran-level certified staff," Gillus said.
All teachers and certified instructional support staff also will receive a lump-sum bonus of $350 by Oct. 31, Gillus said.
The N.C. General Assembly approved pay increases for most public school employees on June 17. Those increases were effective July 1, and have been paid in the employees' July and August paychecks, Gillus said.
Classified employees, such as a cafeteria workers, bus drivers and child-nutrition workers, will receive a one-time lump sum bonus of 3% to be paid by Nov. 30, Gillus said. That package will cost about $3 million.
That bonus will be paid for with one-time savings because of the schools' closures amid the pandemic, Gillus said. Classified employees are among the lowest paid workers in the school system.
During the public-comment session before the board voted on the compensation plan, Allen Daniel, a local resident, said that classified employees deserved a larger raise than the 3-percent bonus. Daniel said the school board promised in November 2019 that increasing the pay for classified employees was a priority.
"We've been talking about classified (employees') pay for 10 years," Daniel said. "In Winston-Salem/Forsyth County, priorities are something we talk about a lot, but never do anything about."
School officials have established a timeline to further increase the salaries of classified employees, Gillus said. A compensation committee will be established and will review new salary options in December, Gillus said.
In February 2021, the committee will propose new salary schedules for classified employees to the school board, Gillus said. In March 2021, school officials will analyze those employees' current salaries and compare those amounts to the proposed new salary schedules for groups of classified employees.
The committee's work in March will coincide with the school board's considering a proposed budget for the 2021-22 budget, Superintendent Angela Hairston told the school board.
"We look forward to that," Hairston said.
Parker said that school officials must find a way to fairly pay all their employees, including classified employees. Burke asked her colleagues about whether they could consider a new salary plan for classified employees that would give them raises this year rather than next year.
Hairston said that the March 2021 timeline outlined by Gillus is appropriate for the school board to consider in raising pay for classified employees.
In other business, the school board heard from eight parents of schoolchildren who asked the board to reopen all the schools for in-person classes for students. They said their children and others are not getting an adequate education under the district's remote learning plan.
However, two parents urged the school board to use caution when they eventually reopen the district amid the pandemic. They must do it in a way to protect the lives of students and teachers alike, the two parents said.