CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Kanawha County school board member Becky Jordon's suggestion that the county's high school principals should receive raises was not well received by teachers and service personnel, who want across-the-board salary increases for all school employees.
"We're asking you to count us in. . . . This seems wrong to us," Fred Albert, president of Kanawha County's branch of the American Federation of Teachers, told the board at a meeting Thursday evening. "How are we going to attract and retain the best employees if we don't offer competitive salaries?"
Also Thursday, board members approved a policy that will require schools to get approval from the county superintendent before they bring in certain speakers -- in response to a recent controversy over an abstinence-only speaker at George Washington and Riverside high schools.
Kanawha County teachers are ranked 10th in the state when it comes to beginning compensation, making about $33,400 annually, according to a union handout that cited state Department of Education data.
Teachers in Boone County first starting out make the most in the state, at about $36,700, while nearly half of the state's first-time teachers make about $31,600 each year.
"We're afraid the gap is only going to get worse," Albert said. "We want a pay raise for all employees, and we mean a raise that would make a difference. And we wish we didn't have to ask for it."
But Jordon said the biggest inequity in the Kanawha County School system is high school principals' salaries. The average high school principal in Kanawha County makes about $79,000 a year. Clinton Giles, longtime principal at Capital High, makes the most at about $91,000.
The average salary for a high school principal in Kanawha County last year was $80,672.97, ranking 25th out of 55 counties in the state. Jordon, however, said that ranking is actually much lower if you consider factors such as seniority, which would spike that county average.
"I think that every person in this room doesn't get paid enough. Please know that I respect what each of you do," Jordon told teachers and staff at Thursday's meeting. "I don't like our teachers 10th -- we're No. 1 in everything, and should be in that, too -- but I think that [principals] should be a priority."
In the past three years, the county has had to replace six principals, according to Jordon.
"It's because of burnout. They go to events, sports, extracurriculars after hours. There's so much. It's crazy," she said. "Every time we have a changeover with a principal, there's some turmoil in the community."
Three years ago, five Kanawha County principals left as a condition of their schools getting millions of dollars in federal money. It was not clear Thursday night if those were the principals to whom Jordon was referring.
Other school board members said Thursday they're worried about a budget that's already tight with salaries staying the way they are now. The school board could face a deficit of hundreds of thousands of dollars by 2014.