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Teachers’ group offers requests for new budget

Teachers’ group offers requests for new budget

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ASHLAND -- With the upcoming budget season right around the corner, Hanover County’s teachers presented a wish list to Hanover County School Board members that included a salary increase, a bolstered share of employee health insurance costs, and more planning time.

Gene Matthews, president of the Hanover Education Association (HEA) and Bill Callahan, Hanover Professional Educators (HPE) president, outlined the request in advance of the budget process that begins in earnest next month.

Matthews said the requests were the result of surveys submitted by county teachers enrolled in the organizations that prioritized their needs regarding budget requests for the 2021-2022 year.

“First, it should come as no surprise that overwhelmingly our HEA and HPE members indicated a need to improve salaries as their overarching goal. Therefore, we ask for a minimum 3% pay raise for all school board employees,” Matthews said.

Employee raises for the current year were scrapped when the COVID-19 pandemic hit the area. For more tenured teachers, the problem of salary compression continues, although initial steps to correct the problem were included in last year’s budget.

“Our associations also ask that extra compensation be paid to teachers on the steps in the 10- to 25-year range of the salary scale most affected by salary compression. Both HEA and HPE members indicated that fixing salary compression for teachers and continuing the movement to a linear scale should be a priority for the school board,” Matthews said.

County teachers also listed planning time, or lack thereof, as a priority on their budget wish list to board members.

“Beginning with the second semester of the present 2020-2021 academic year, we ask that the school board to consider designating one day per week as an asynchronous learning day: to give students additional time to meet expectations, to give teachers additional time to prepare lessons and to give custodians an extended opportunity to deep clean facilities,” Matthews told board members at a meeting earlier this month.

Employees also asked that the current budget absorb the increased costs for employees associated with health care coverage.

The Hanover Education Association (HEA) and Hanover Professional Educators (HPE) have collaborated on teacher surveys and the compilation of a list of priorities for the upcoming budget year.

“We ask that the school board fully absorb the entire cost of the employee’s share of any health insurance increase,” Matthews read from the joint statement.

Employees also listed concerns regarding co-payments on medical services and requested a set dollar amount for those charges.

Teachers also requested a 45-minute unencumbered planning period each day and 30 minutes for lunch, and asked that adequate kitchen staff be hired to ensure continued good service in county cafeterias.

Callahan repeated a request to lower class sizes at middle school core subject classes and reduced teacher loads and expressed concerns expressed by members, including elementary class sizes.

“At the middle school level, we once more ask you to continue to lower class sizes in the core content areas and to consider reducing overall teacher loads,” Callahan said. “We also ask you to examine elementary class sizes to see what reductions can be made at that level.”

Also included on the list of priorities was a request for a $300 school supply stipend for all teachers as well as a stipend for those that are forced to surrender their planning periods for other assignments.

Members also expressed a desire to provide more than the 3% raise for teacher and classroom assistants.

Callahan said bus drivers also were asked to list top three budget initiatives to increase their compensation.

The ranked VRS membership as number one and that request was included in the joint presentation.

Teachers also expressed concerns regarding the work/life balance and an increasing demand on schedules.

“Other factors that our members listed on the surveys that impacted their work/life balance include the increasing number of after-school meetings, standardized test proctoring, the growing amount of paperwork, and the additional professional days added to the school calendar,” Callahan said.

“There needs to be a reduction in unnecessary duties, and many of these factors can be addressed without impacting the budget,” he added.

Superintendent Michael Gill told school board members that compensation is a major priority in planning for the upcoming budget.

The superintendent will present the 2021-2022 budget next month.

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