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Pay raises proposed for teachers, administrators

By Curt Yeomans

cyeomans@news-daily.com

A proposal Clayton County Schools officials hoped would help the district overcome a $23 million shortfall in state funding has hit a snag.

District finance officials offered a plan to board members Monday to grant some pay increases, while denying others. The proposal also seeks to cut back on the work calendar of some staffers by at least 10 days a year. The plan was set for a vote Monday, but board members asked finance officials to review the proposal and bring it back for action March 2.

While the district faces a $23 million funding cut, under the initial form of the proposal, officials said they can save $22.2 million through compensation changes.

"That was our intent," Clayton County Schools Chief Financial Officer Roger Reese said Tuesday. "We wanted to identify reductions that would go towards offsetting the reduced state funding that is the result of losses in enrollment, as well as other reductions proposed by the governor."

Clayton County teachers could get a 1 percent raise during fiscal year 2010 under the compensation proposal.

The plan also recommends giving principals, and school system central office employees, a 3 percent salary step increase - and a 10-day reduction in their employment calendar during the 2009-10 school year. The step increases are not guaranteed to be put into effect, Reese said.

Meanwhile, school improvement specialists, custodians, assistant principals, school psychologists, coordinators, and Reserve Officer Training Corps instructors would not receive salary increases, and their employment calendars would be shortened.

The core issue, for board members, was the planned step increase for top-level district administrators, while several staff members would not receive any extra money to offset the reduced employment calendar. A step increase occurs when employees are moved to a higher pay grade.

"Perception wise, I think it is hard to give our highly-paid people step increases when we're not giving our teachers a step increase," Board of Education Member Pamela Adamson said.

Reese said the salary increases were primarily designed to "reward the people who are on the front lines every day - the teachers."

A key part of the school system's plan is the reduction of work days for several employees.

Under the plan, for example, an employee who makes $31,027.20 per year, before taxes, would make $391.20 less next year, according to school system figures. That breaks down to $32.60 less per month.

An employee who makes $54,566.60 per year would make $709.80 less next year. That is $59.15 less per month.

An employee who makes $92,179.20 per year would make $1,172.80 less next year. This amounts to $97.73 less per month.

Finally, an employee who makes $129,369.60 per year would make $1,665.20 less next year. This equals $137.93 less per month. Those highest-paid employees are generally district-level officials.

Those figures are for a 10-day decrease in an employee's work calendar. Most of the employees who would see their work-year cut fall in this category, but school improvement specialists would see their work calendars cut by 30 days.

"I would argue that a school improvement specialist is a little more important than someone in the central office," Board Member Mary Baker said.

During the 2007-08 school year, school improvement specialists, assistant principals and most school psychologists reportedly earned salaries in the neighborhood of $70,000, while several custodians made less than $30,000, according to the Georgia Department of Audits and Accounts' fiscal year 2008 audit of the school system. One psychologist, though, earned $99,394.20, according to the audit report.

After the school board postponed a vote on the compensation proposal, it took action to control the employment of central office administrators. The board voted 7-1 to implement a hiring freeze on positions in the central office. Board Member Charlton Bivins, who voted against the hiring freeze, said he did not understand the need for the freeze.

There was little discussion by board members on the issue.

The freeze affects any position from the coordinator level up, such as a deputy superintendent or staff attorney.

The board's move duplicates steps already taken by the school system to save money.

Superintendent John Thompson put a hiring freeze in place for all positions, including 21 teaching jobs, on Jan. 1. He also eliminated four administrative positions last year to save money. The school board's hiring freeze will stay in effect until the fiscal year 2010 budget is approved later this year.

While supporting the freeze, Adamson said Thompson can fill some central office positions - with board approval - if he "deems them essential to the operation of the school system, as long as he comes to the school board with a rationale for filling the position."

Board policy already requires Thompson to seek board approval before hiring any administration-level officials, including coordinators, directors, assistant superintendents, principals and assistant principals.

Adamson said the move was made to reassure classroom teachers, after comments from system officials that the district needs to shed 153 teaching positions to avoid layoffs.

"The purpose of this is to make a statement to our teachers that we're going to hold the line on administrative positions," Adamson said.