School Board Votes To End School Year One Day Early

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By Stefanie Jackson – The Accomack school board unanimously passed exam schedule changes Tuesday night that will allow the current school year to end one day early, Friday, June 7, instead of Monday, June 10.

In other business, Director of Finance Beth Onley explained how the teacher salary scale was adjusted to be simpler and fairer.

The total, one-time cost of the salary scale adjustments is about $120,000.

There were originally 37 steps on the pay scale, which had been decreased to 32 steps. The new pay scale will have 30 steps, enabling teachers to achieve the maximum possible salary sooner than before.

The most expensive adjustments were to salaries of teachers with two to five years of experience, at a one-time cost of about $106,000.

Previously, teachers with one year of experience received a salary increase of nearly 1.5%, but teachers with two to five years of experience got less than 1%, and some got less than .5%.

Now Accomack teachers with two to five years of experience will get salary increases of about 1.1%.

Onley emphasized the importance of making the changes because a majority of Accomack teachers have five years of experience or less.

Accomack teachers will also get raises of 3%, with two exceptions. First-year teachers, having no previous experience as Accomack school employees, do not qualify for a raise. Instead, they will get 1.5% more than previous first-year teachers.

Teachers at the top of the pay scale also do not qualify for a raise, but they will receive a 1.5% cost-of-living salary adjustment.

Onley also presented a proposal for spending the $429,000 that will remain in the Accomack schools operating budget at the end of the fiscal year.

The school bus fuel pump at Nandua High School needs to be replaced at a cost of $6,000. It’s the second-most used fuel pump in the division.

About $6,300 will buy every school in the division a computer docking station for viewing school bus video surveillance footage. Principals will be able to review bus videos at their schools instead of traveling to the bus shop.

Two more school buses will be replaced, bringing the total number of buses replaced this year to 10 as originally planned.

Concrete slabs will be installed at six storage buildings to create smooth transitions when transporting equipment in and out of storage, at a cost of $10,000.

A pole barn approximately 60 feet long and 30 feet wide will be built to replace two old storage buildings that are in poor condition, one of which is separating from its foundation, at a cost of $60,000, Chief of Operations Mike Tolbert said.

During the public comment period, Connie Burford suggested the Accomack school division renegotiate its dual-enrollment agreement with Eastern Shore Community College to allow Accomack students who live far from the community college, like Tangier students, to participate in the dual enrollment program via Skype.

Burford also asked the school board to reinvestigate the division’s ability to live broadcast high school graduations for family and friends who are unable to attend in person. She said she recently watched Pocomoke High School’s graduation at home, and the event was broadcast using a standard video camera and computer.

School board member Audrey Furness regretted that she was unable to participate in  Superintendent Chris Holland’s performance evaluation, but she commended him and said, “we can’t find a more kind man” who “loves children. We know those two facts for sure.”

“He can be firm,” she said, but employees understand that he is just “doing his job.”

School board member Gary Reese was also recognized for being inducted into the Nandua High School Hall of Fame for his past accomplishments as the school’s athletic director.