Pay raises said to favor Loudon school administrators

By Hugh Willett Knoxville News Sentinel

When the Loudon County school board asked county commission in June to increase its 2010-11 operating budget by $1 million, members said they did it for the teachers.

The increased operating budget effectively killed the long-awaited and much-needed school building program for another year.

An analysis by school board member Van Shaver, however, shows that teachers were actually among the least compensated of the school employees who received raises from the budget increase.

Some employees actually took a reduction in pay while administrators, including principals and assistant principals, received average increases of thousands of dollars per year, Shaver said.

"It's the same old story," Shaver said. "They claim it's for the children or the teachers and what it's really about is increasing the budget for the administration."

Teachers received one step raise and a half-percent raise for an average $670 a year raise, Shaver said. Principals were given a new pay scale and received average raises of about $3,400.

Assistant principals received one step raise and a half-percent raise. They also had 20 days added to their contracts creating an average increase in salary of $6,100.

Teachers are not happy about the fact that the raises approved in their name went to administration, said school board member Bobby Johnson Jr. He said he spoke with a number of teachers at the beginning of the school year.

"It ended up being a slap in the face," Johnson said. "Some of them told me they thought it was an insult."

Other rank-and-file school employees were also affected by the raises, Shaver said. Some employees, including school nurses and teaching assistants, actually took pay cuts of between $9 and $12 for the year, he said. That's because the school year is one day shorter this year and they will lose a day's pay. In most cases, the lost day of pay was more than the raise, Shaver said.

County Commissioner Bob Franke opposed the extra $1 million the panel voted for school operating expenses because it crippled the building program.

Franke said he believes some on the commission voted for the extra operating funds because they thought the money was going to the teachers.

"This is why we have trouble between the school board and county commission," he said. "There is a lack of trust."

Wayne Honeycutt, the director of schools, said he is all for increasing teacher pay. Loudon County teachers are currently paid less than those in surrounding counties and did not receive any raises during the 2009-10 budget year, he said.

"This just shows how far behind we are," he said.

When you look at the money allocated for raises, the majority actually went to teachers, Honeycutt said. About $214,000 went for step raises and only about $45,000 for increases for assistant principals, he said.

Average teacher pay in Loudon is $41,883. Teachers who earned an advanced degree received increases of $2,525.