school board meeting March 13

Vote for smaller raise fails: Prince William County School Board members Gil Trenum, in red sweater, Alyson Satterwhite, to his right, and Justin Wilk, to his left, raise their hands to vote to reduce proposed raises for school board members and the chairman to $15,000 and $17,000, respectively. The move failed in a 4-to-4 tie vote.  

The Prince William School Board is poised to more than double its salary next year, boosting annual pay from $12,000 to $26,520 for members elected from each of the county’s seven magisterial districts and from $13,100 to $28,520 for its at-large chairman.

The raises won’t be official until the Prince William County Board of Supervisors approves the school division budget in April. 

But the school board took a non-binding “straw poll” vote during a budget work session Wednesday, March 13, to effectively approve the raises, which are included in the $1.1 billion operating fund budget Superintendent Steven Walts proposed for the 2019-20 school year.

The work session was an opportunity for school board members to ask questions and make changes to the $1.3 billion operating and capital-improvement plan budgets Walts first presented to the school board last month. 

During the first such work session, held Wednesday, Feb. 27, Walts explained that his proposed raises equal the annual pay school board members would earn in fiscal year 2020 if the board had given its members the same raises teachers and staff members received over the past 19 years. The school board hasn’t raised its own members’ salaries since 2000. 

During that discussion, Walts noted the proposed amounts would still be less than what school board members make in Fairfax County, which pegs its annual salaries at $32,000 for members elected from its nine magisterial districts and $34,000 for its at-large chairperson. 

Fairfax County schools have the largest enrollment in the state with 187,830 students. Prince William County schools have the second-largest enrollment at almost 91,000 students, according to Virginia Department of Education records.

Trenum proposes smaller increase

Still, School Board member Gil Trenum (Brentsville) proposed during the March 13 work session that the school board might want to reduce the proposed school board raises to “something more modest,” perhaps $15,000 for board members and $17,000 for the chairman.

“I just think the $26,000 and the $29,000 is a big chunk all in one step,” Trenum said.

School Board member Alyson Satterwhite (Gainesville) seconded the motion. The move failed in a 4-to-4 tie with Trenum, Satterwhite, Willie Deutsch (Coles) and Justin Wilk (Potomac) voting in favor of the smaller raises while School Board Chairman Dr. Babur Lateef (at large), Loree Williams (Woodbridge), Lillie Jessie (Occoquan) and Diane Raulston (Neabsco) voting against Trenum’s suggestion.

The vote effectively keeps the larger raises in the budget. The school board will formally adopt its budget during its next meeting on Wednesday, March 20. The school division is scheduled to present its budget to the supervisors on Tuesday, April 2.

Satterwhite declined to comment on her vote after the meeting. Similarly, Deutsch said he would “let the vote speak for itself.”

Wilk said he felt uncomfortable with the idea of raising school board salaries considering the school board still has not found the money to restore step raises the school division’s more than 6,000 teachers did not receive in tight budget years during and after the Great Recession.

Wilk said his vote was “consistent” with his hope that those lost step raises might be paid back to teachers eventually. He also noted that he would have liked “more incremental” raises for school board members.

The raises come amid an especially good year – financially—for the school division. Thanks to more money from the state and a projected raise from county taxpayers, the school board is poised to grant teachers the highest single-year raise in more than a decade. Teachers will receive a step-pay raise and a cost-of-living increase that will amount to an average raise of 4.8 percent next school year.

The school division will also further increase pay for about 570 employees in 70 different position categories to bring the school division’s salaries up to par with surrounding jurisdictions. Those positions were targeted for pay increases by an outside study the school board commissioned two years ago.

The school board budget will also add several new positions, including 46 new school counselor positions and three new school nurse positions, which will allow each school to have its own nurse.

Lateef: County supervisors ‘make three to four times what we do’

Lateef said he believes Prince William County schools should keep its salaries on par with that of surrounding school divisions in Northern Virginia, a goal he said should apply to teachers, administrators and school board members.

“I believe this is a job that should be taken very seriously. We oversee a $1.3 billion budget. And there was a formula for the raises, they didn’t come from out of the blue,” Lateef added, noting that the raises equal those paid to school division staff over the years.

A review of school board pay from around the state shows that all of Northern Virginia’s larger school divisions pay their school board members more than Prince William County does. Loudoun County’s school board chairman and eight school board members make $22,000 and $20,000, respectively, while Arlington County pays its four school board members $25,000 a year and its chairman $27,000. Loudoun County schools enroll 82,238 students, while Arlington County schools enroll 27,434 students, according to VDOE records.

“The board of supervisors make three or four times what we do, and they oversee a smaller budget,” he added, noting that the school division’s portion of the county budget is actually larger than that of the county’s. “I think it’s a modest pay increase for the job we do.”

Members of the Prince William County Board of Supervisors made $43,422 this year, while Chairman Corey Stewart made $49,452, according to county salary records.

Each of the eight supervisors also have staff members – generally three – and have annual budgets of $425,000 for their offices, staff members and expenses.

School board members have no offices or individual staff members, except for the school board clerk and her assistant.

In total, the school board raises will cost the school division about $117,580 more next school year, according to the school division budget.

Raises, if approved, take effect in 2020

In accordance with Virginia law, the raises will not take effect until the new school board is sworn in on Jan. 1, 2020.  All eight seats on the school board are up for re-election Nov. 5. 

Only Trenum has said he will not seek re-election. Lateef and Satterwhite are once again vying for the school board chairmanship, which Lateef won last November in a special election to fill the last 13 months of former chairman Ryan Sawyers’ term. Sawyers won a three-way race for school board chairman in 2015 but then resigned from his post in February 2018.

So far, no one is running for the Gainesville seat on the school board, while Williams and Jessie are running uncontested in the Woodbridge and Occoquan magisterial districts, respectively.

All other incumbent school board members face challengers in November. 

CORRECTION: This story was updated Friday, March 15 to note that the proposed new salaries are $26,520 for school board members and $28,520 for the school board chairman. Amounts reported in earlier versions of this story were incorrect. The school division updated the numbers March 15 to reflect Virginia law, which stipulates that school board chairman cannot make more than $2,000 in excess of school board members' salaries.

Reach Jill Palermo at jpalermo@fauquier.com

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(2) comments

weouchere

Trenum is right. Y'all have lost your frigging minds. Are any of you aware of any situation where someone has doubled their salary in one jump doing the same job? Unbelievable.

Faye

Mr. Trenum, thank you for looking out for the tax payers. Every year because of the schools and their employees our taxes keep going up.

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