More than 80 percent of Charleston County School District's thousands of employees are in line for raises, with principals and their assistants getting nearly a quarter of the $8.4 million, under a pay study being unveiled Tuesday.
Teachers, who far outnumber administrators, will be getting the bulk of the money, but some of the district's lowest paid workers won't be seeing any increase. Of the district's roughly 5,500 employees, 1,020 will not get a raise because they already were earning more than the market rate, according to the study.
Among those whose salaries are frozen are 176 food service workers, 118 administrative support clerks, 123 Head Start teachers and specialists, 98 teaching assistants, 55 teacher support specialists and 33 classroom teachers, the district said.
No one's pay will be cut, but they won't be eligible for raises until the job market catches up to their salaries, said Michael Bobby, the district's chief financial officer.
School district employees will learn Tuesday whether they will receive a raise. The first paychecks with the new salary rates will go out on Friday for some employees. Teachers, who are not on a 12-month pay cycle, will receive their first check under the new pay scale Aug. 15.
Superintendent Nancy McGinley said principals were among the employees whose pay was furthest below market. The study based salary comparisons for principals on an hourly rate, although they are salaried employees, and showed that their salaries were about 8.64 percent less than the other districts.
"We felt that it was the right thing to do," School Board member Todd Garrett said of the raise package. Garrett received a briefing on the raises during a School Board Finance Committee meeting Monday.
"It will help make us more competitive with neighboring districts and is a well-deserved reward for our current employees," he said.
So far Garrett said the feedback from district employees has been positive but he anticipates some negative feedback from employees who will not receive a raise.
"I'm sure we'll hear something about that," he said.
The study compared the district's salaries with that of 19 other school districts throughout the state, as well as North Carolina, Georgia, Virginia, Maryland and Texas. To implement the entire study would have cost around $16.8 million, but the School Board opted to fund 50 percent of the study at a cost of $8.4 million in the 2014-2015 school budget, which began July 1. About 34 percent of the total for raises is going to teachers while 13 percent will go to assistant principals and 11 percent to principals.
The last time the district adjusted salaries to reflect the job market beginning in 2005, some hourly employees, including electricians, were upset when they didn't get any raises. Electrician Jimmy Martin was among them then but said Monday he is taking a wait-and-see approach this time.
McGinley said the district was trying to address inequities in the way principals are paid - some principals of smaller high schools with only 140 students were making more money than a principal managing an elementary school with 1,100 students. The study adjusted principals' pay according to the market based on the size of the school and the grades - elementary, middle of high school level.
Bill Briggman, district executive director of human resources, said the pay scale for principals will change under the new salary study with the creation of a step increase based on experience. Principals will receive a flat salary based on the type of school and the size of the school. They will be able to earn pay increases through the new step pay schedule. Previously, principals received a base salary and then supplemental pay for educational experience, education and enrollment size. All supplements will be eliminated in the new structure.
As an example, previously all elementary school principals earned a base salary of $68,820 and then earned supplements that could equal several thousand dollars. Now the salary for an elementary school principal at a school with less than 750 students will start at $64,992, while the minimum salary for an elementary school principal at a school with more than 750 students will be $68,582.
"I'm very excited about the implementation of the salary study," said Mount Pleasant Academy Principal Jane Davis. "It is long overdue. Now that our salaries are at fair market value, Charleston County Schools will attract and retain outstanding principals to lead our schools."
Teachers are also supportive of the salary study.
"The better the salary is, the better chance the district has to hire the best people and attract the best people," said Ken Riddle, chairman of the Charleston Teacher Alliance, an advocacy group,
Patrick Hayes, a Charleston County teacher and director of the education advocacy group EdFirstSC, said his main concern is that only half of the market adjustment is being funded this year. Given that the salary data used is already 18 months old, delaying the full implementation of the market increase to next year will likely still leave district employees, especially teachers and principals, underpaid.
"That's only bringing us up to speed with where we should have been two and a half years earlier," Hayes said.
Reach Amanda Kerr at 937-5546.