by Colston Newton
It took the Northumberland County School Board about an hour on the evening of March 6 to decide on giving the staff a four per cent raise in the next school year. Between the raise and new positions the Board wants to add, its budget proposal to the Board of Supervisors will ask that the county increase ts support of the school system by $610,956. The total propsed budget will be for $17,703,872.
Superintendent of Schools Holly Wargo presented the Board with a list of 10 items including the across the board pay increases of which the Board approved nine. The one item the Board dropped was $59,000 for technology upgrades at the elementary school. It was dropped so that funds would be available to hire a special education teacher at the high school.
Amy Lamb, president of the Northumberland Educational Association and a teacher herself, pointed out to the Board that this year 24 special education students had entered the ninth grade but the number of special education teachers had not increased. “That hurts all the students,” she said. “I don’t see how that can’t be a priority.” The Board, led by Dana O’Bier, agreed.
Board member Gerald Howard had qualms about joining the “Kids First” initiative, an early education program. In its first year, it gives the school system $100,000 which covers almost all its costs. Thereafter the donations decrease by 25 percent a year until the school system is paying for the program by itself. Chairman Betty Christopher observed that other systems that have joined the program are having their expenses defrayed by grants from private parties and Northumberland can do the same thing.
The new items approved by the Board include a full-time school psychologist, a full-time pre-K teacher and paraprofessional, a reading specialist and a world language teacher.
If the Board of Supervisors approves the pay increases Northumberland will move from toward the bottom to the top of the regional school systems’ pay scales with first year teachers being paid $39,243 annually. The other systems would be behind anywhere from a few hundred dollars to about $2000 annually.
The School Board will meet again March 21 to approve its proposed budget and present it to the Board of Supervisors.