Teachers demand school board action on supplements

Tripp Jeffers speaks to the school board.

Teachers demand school board action on supplements
October 04
04:00 2018

The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education assured teachers that it was working to increase supplements during its meeting last week, after a viral video put a spotlight on the issue.

During its meeting on Tuesday, Sept. 25, the board passed a budget with a one-time $300 teacher bonus. The bonus costs nearly $2.6 million with nearly $2.3 million coming from fund balance and $305,750 from budget savings.

This did little to placate the disappointment among teachers in the audience that the budget didn’t contain action on teacher supplements. The state funds teachers’ base pay and sets that amount uniformly among counties. County-funded supplements are what set teacher pay apart  between school districts, making some more competitive than others. Forsyth County is the fourth largest school system in the state but has dropped from eighth to 26th in supplements in the last five years.

On Sept. 16, a video involving local supplements was mass posted on social media.  It shows a presentation by Superintendent Beverly Emory of the school system’s proposed budget to county commissioners on May 10 in which Commissioner Everette Witherspoon told her that if the school board asked for more money in the county budget for supplements that they’d probably get it, which Commissioner Vice Chairman Don Martin agreed with. This resulted in #justask going viral with the video being viewed more than 4,400 times.

In response, Emory put out her own video, saying a school board committee has been working on finding a sustainable way to increase supplements since February. She said they’re continuing to work on the issue and that she should’ve done a better job communicating that to teachers. She proposed a new hashtag, #justaskme, if school employees have any questions or concerns.

This was a sentiment school board Chairwoman Dana Caudill Jones repeated during last week’s meeting, telling teachers “the work is happening.”

“We need to do a better job of communicating to our stakeholders, because you guys didn’t know we were doing all this,” she said

There were so many teachers dissatisfied with the situation that the meeting’s public comments took almost an hour. They talked about how many teachers work second jobs or contemplate quitting because of the pay.

Teacher Tripp Jeffers, who was one of the teachers involved in spreading the video, told the school board that action on supplements was taking too long and that they needed to come up with a plan on subsidies before the election.

“If it takes me seven months to write a lesson plan, you would have probably fired me by now,” said Jeffers.

Teacher Tamela Payne suggested a new hashtag, #justtellme.

“Just tell me that you have a plan, not that you’re working on one or not that you’re going to get one,” she said. “Just tell me you’re not going to put a BandAid on this, but that you’re going to come up with some real solutions.”

Several said the bonus was not enough, nor was the 1 percent to 2 percent supplement increase that had been talked about. School board Member Victor Johnson agreed, comparing the $300 bonus to money you’d give a child for Christmas.

A six-year plan was discussed during the meeting to increase the supplement to put the district among the Top 10 in supplements, which would cost about $1 million the first year. This would increase individual teacher supplements annually to $5.2 million a year by the sixth year. This would increase the monthly supplement of a new teacher with a bachelor’s degree from $260 a month now to $355 a month by year six.

Emory said there were discussions with the county on devoting almost 40 percent of excess revenues from the proposed quarter-cent county sales tax to the school system. The board asked her to get a commitment from the county commissioners on that.

There was also discussion of the school system needing more than what’s allocated in the current funding formula, and forming a new committee to look into that, which would include a county commissioner. The committee is supposed to handle both supplements and the funding formula, instead of having two separate committees.

Emory sent an email with both requests to County Manager Dudley Watts. Commissioners agreed with the sales tax request and plan to vote on that today. They turned down a spot on the formula committee.

For more details, see the county commissioners story on page A1.

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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