Teachers’ rep questions pay raises

PARSONS – A teacher’s union representative questioned the Tucker County Board of Education Monday about recent salary increases approved for county administrators.

Mary Snelson, of the West Virginia Education Association, expressed concerns about the pay raises during the Tucker BOE meeting Monday afternoon. Snelson said a large percentage of education professionals in the county belong to the WVEA, but noted those members were uncomfortable coming to the board to voice their concerns.

Snelson said she was at the meeting to represent teachers in Tucker County.

“I believe we have about 90 percent membership (in the WVEA) of the professionals in the county,” Snelson said. “I have to say, I am the spokesperson today because although a lot of people want the board to know about how they feel about some things, they don’t feel comfortable coming here. I don’t know exactly why that is, but it might be something you as board members want to explore with your employees.”

Snelson said the WVEA competitive salary campaign is continuing this year.

“Those of you who were on the board last year might remember that you signed a resolution of support for the campaign,” Snelson said. “We thank you for those signatures. As a result, professional employees received a (statewide) $1,000 salary increase and service professionals received a 2-percent increase.

“Speaking of salaries,” Snelson said. “I want to express the concern of our membership in regard to recent salary increases that were given to four employees here in Tucker County. We are not against pay raises. We think everybody should be making as much money as you can possibly afford to pay them.”

Superintendent of Schools Eddie Campbell’s salary was adjusted on March 4 when he signed a new four-year contract, and Tucker BOE members voted to approve raises to three administrators Aug. 4.

The decision on the three raises came following an hour-long executive session Aug. 4. That meeting was the third time the salary increases appeared on the BOE’s agenda; the raises were tabled during the June 23 and July 21 BOE meetings.

BOE member Tim Turner voted against the pay raises, while members Janet Preston, Marvin “Bud” Parsons, Kevin White and Judy Fairbanks voted for the salary increases.

Snelson said WVEA members were voicing their dismay that only four people received raises.

“Jay Hamrick (Tucker County High School’s principal) received $2,500 and he is the only one of the four that works directly with the students,” Snelson said. “That is where we think the biggest bang should go. Dave Lambert (treasurer/director of finance) received $7,496, and Jonathan Hicks (director of support services/food service director) received $3,642.82. The superintendent will receive an increase of $26,000 over the next three years.”

Snelson said that brought the total of raises to $39,648.82. She said she heard comments from others saying it was interesting these raises only went to men, and that only one school level administrator received a salary increase.

“So we wondered, really, what was your rational?” Snelson said. “Additionally, I don’t know if the board was aware that three of the four people who got raises also received the $1,000 pay raise that the state gave.”

Snelson said maybe the rational was to bring the salaries up from the bottom of the state-wide scale for the particular job.

“I know the superintendent salary was low compared to others,” Snelson said. “But I just want to remind you that Tucker County teachers are still there, at the very bottom of the salary scale, at the state basic minimum. I think as time goes on, you are going to start losing staff to other counties where the pay and benefits are better.”

Snelson said many counties are experiencing difficulty finding certified teachers for that very reason.

“We are urging you to make fiscally responsible decisions so the public will be supportive of the upcoming levy,” Snelson said. “We think you should include a salary increase for all employees in that levy call.”

Tucker officials recently decided the proposed levy, which failed in the May primary election, will be placed on the November general election ballot.

No board members commented on Snelson’s presentation Monday or answered any questions she posed.

Snelson said the Tucker County Education Association is going to try something new this fall.

“They are sponsoring a walk for food,” Snelson said. “It’s going to be on Saturday, Sept. 20 at 10:30 a.m. at the high school. We are going to be donating food to the local food pantries. Admission will be non-perishable food items or monetary donations. We invite you to participate. It will be open to the general public. I think it’s a really nice way for our employees to give back to the community.”

The next Tucker County Board of Education meeting is slated for 4:30 p.m. Sept. 2.