Samuel Foster, Craig County’s Director of Instruction, recently presented the budget overview for CCPS.
In viewing the slides, it was heartwarming to see at the bottom of each, the district’s motto, “Every Child a Graduate, Every Child Prepared for Life.”
Foster began with an interesting question for everyone. “What is the value of an education?”
Amongst his research, he found that a high school graduate earns approximately $12,000 more per year than someone without a diploma. Over three decades, that equates to $377,400.
“On average, the higher the education, the more one earns over their lifetime, so when we talk about the value of the education, it’s not only about learning and knowing something or being able to do something more, but there is also a monetary incentive that goes along with it,” Foster said. “When we talk about a budget, we are talking about our students’ futures where they can potentially do for themselves and for their families.”
He added, “There is an amount of money that the county locality is required to give to the school system, and typically localities give more than they are required.”
The last set of data Foster was able to obtain was from 2018. Craig County gave 43 percent more than what they were required to give based on the state formulas and at that time, there were 136 school divisions.
“At 43 percent, we were in the 110th place,” Foster said. “One hundred and nine school division localities gave more to their schools than our county did.”
He also noted that the highest was at West Point who gave 265 percent more than what is required.
“In terms of our region, we are at the bottom,” he added. “The state average is 80 percent higher and the locality average is 100 percent higher.”
His research showed that on average, schools around CCPS are getting double what they are required to get.
“That makes a big difference, as the more we receive from our locality the more we can do for our students, the teachers and the school,” Foster explained. “That is one of the issues we have to deal with is we get a certain amount from the state, and then the locality and all the extra things we want, the locality has to pick up the bill, whether raises, adding onto the building, etc.”
Foster showed last year’s budget, with no cuts for now.
“If we get exactly what we were allotted last year, we start with a $6,841,926 budget, with approximately 520 students PreK – 12, 104 employees (which 52 are funded by the state).
He noted that CCPS is the largest employer in the county with the salaries (approximately 62 percent) and benefits (approximately 25 percent) taking up about 85 percent of the budget. The remainder is used for utilities, buses, maintenance, fixing the septic tank, and other necessities.
“The majority of our funds come from the State at about 66 percent, 6.8 percent from the federal level, local 25.6 percent and a small other amount of .7 percent,” he explained. “Every year, since Ms. Warwick has become Superintendent, I have scoured the internet for salary scales and budgets, trying to determine how we can compete, how to make things better for our staff and what do these scales need to look like.”
Foster also reported that CCPS’s current teacher scale starts at 35,103 with 1.7 percent between steps.
He noted that CCPS is ranked 126 out of 132 school divisions in its pay scale. “In terms of our neighboring school divisions, we are number 15 of 15. We are at the bottom of the list,” he said.
The average regional scale is a little over $38,000. Approximately $3,566 of which is higher than CCPS starting scale.
He noted that the administrative scales have not been adjusted in at least ten years and that scales from other schools are more difficult to find.
Foster compiled the average starting salaries from neighboring schools: Assistant Principals start at $67,000, Elementary Principals start almost $70,000 and High School Principals comes in at $77,000 while School Directors make slightly more than $77,000.
“Those average numbers are from $11,000 to $16,000 higher than our scales,” he said. “There is one nearby where the difference from our starting Director scale and theirs is $35,000.”
Foster stated there were two things they proposed to add to the budget.
*Middle School JVG program ($25,000 with a match grant)
*Preschool teacher and an aide. (nonspecial ed classroom), explaining that there is a need in the community for the school, as “children are coming in already behind” – we need this position so that our students can be ready for kindergarten, at $76,662
“A teacher ranges between $50,000 and $60,000 in annual salary,” Foster said. “In the December budget session, the Board indicated they wanted a one-step and two percent raise for the teachers. We were not able to give a step last year due to state cuts in raises from the Governor’s budget.”
The hopes is to try to get teachers back on their next step, which is a two-step.
“If we keep the salary scale the same and move all the teachers up two-steps which is a 3.4 percent increase, we would need a little under $70,000,” he said. “We would like teachers to be on the correct step. We could do two steps and a .3 percent raise. If we do that, then we are looking at a 3.7 percent raise, and would need $81, 818.”
For the Administrator scale, they are matching the step increase.
He explained, “The next option is for teachers to scale number 2 which starts at $39,000. The average for our region is about $38,000. This puts us a little bit above the average. We maintain that scale for three years when teachers earn tenure.”
They wish to link the administrative scale to the teacher’s scale.
To become an administrator, an individual must have a master’s degree and work 12 months versus ten months.
“Elementary principal difference is $7,000 and high school $13,000 and for Director was $14,000,” Foster continued. “If the teacher’s salaries scale changes then the administration scale changes proportionally.”
He noted that some local school divisions have given salary increases to teachers one year and admin the next year.
“We don’t need an ‘us’ versus‘ them’,” he said. “We are so small. By unifying the scale and linking it together, there is no question. If we say there is a two percent raise, then it’s all straightforward.”
For the teachers to receive a 12 percent to a five percent raise “which would put CCPS on a competitive scale, we need to add $289,146 to our budget”,” Foster said.
It was noted that the Superintendent’s salary is negotiated between the School Board and the Superintendent. “Typically, you will look at the highest salary and base it on that,” Foster added. “Our Superintendents salary here at CCPS is ranked last in our state, yet our superintendent is the best throughout the Commonwealth.”
Foster and Duncan worked on many scenarios. Need between $65,000 and $95,000 for the admin scale. “Our scales are so out of line with everyone around us or even in the state,” he added. “We have looked at every salary scale, every possibility, every scenario.”
“We compete with local school divisions at job fairs and we will have one or two people talking with us,” he said. “There is another local school division that is at the bottom of the mountain that has 50 people in line as everyone wants to work there because they have the highest salary starting point.”
He added, “When we go into these job fairs, we have to apologize first, saying, ‘I’m sorry, we’re a small school division, we can’t pay a lot, but we try to list all of the positives.’ That one thing becomes the one issue that keeps possible teachers here in Craig.”
Foster said, “We’ve been dealing with these budget issues for a long time. We need to be competitive and have a scale that makes us similar, competitive and reasonable with our neighboring divisions.”
Foster shared that if they do not do this, each year, a representative for the teachers will explain how CCPS teachers are still on the bottom of the pay scale in our region and state.
“We have got to flip this conversation to where when we come to budget time, I can come up here and talk to you about adding a program, or having teachers coming up asking to add things to their instructional program, rather than every year, having to figure out what can we cut so that we can increase our salaries,” he explained. “We have got to have these conversations, so we are comfortable with the salary scales.”
He concluded, “Let’s make Craig County schools better instructionally! We need to make this school great. I’ve heard that New Castle is revitalizing. Well let’s revitalize our schools. Let’s make it better for the kids. Think about it, how much time do our kids spend here? Don’t we want it to be great for them? We want them to be excited about coming to school and having fun. Our budget conversations need to be about that.”