Halifax County School Board took a step toward increasing pay for all school system employees when they approved a compensation plan to go into effect no later than July 1 when they met Monday evening.

Included in the compensation plan is a new teacher scale as well as a graded pay plan for all employees.

The school board’s plans of using carryover funds to make this possible as well as a request to the Halifax County Board of Supervisors to increase real estate tax by 2 cents is set to be brought to supervisors for consideration of approval.

Also included in this plan are a retirement incentive and the elimination of 10 positions.

A survey was sent out to employees with 30 years of Virginia Retirement System service, and responses are due Sept. 20.

This compensation plan follows a year when a “mass exodus” of teachers left the school system, as ED-3 trustee Sandra Garner-Coleman phrased the dozens of teachers who left the area to teach elsewhere in an effort to seek higher pay.

“If we keep on par, then more will leave the county,” said Garner-Coleman, who noted that higher pay was the number one reason that was cited by resigning teachers in their exit surveys.

With the current pay scale, teachers have to work with the school system for seven years before they start receiving a salary greater than a first year teacher.

Under the new approved scale, a first year and second year teacher will make $42,752, and a third year and fourth year teacher will make $42,875.

A fifth year teacher will now make $43,016, an increase of $265, and a 10th year teacher will now make $45,124, an increase of $2,249.

The cost to implement the approved teacher pay scale is $1,864,000.

The compensation plan also puts support staff and administration on a graded pay plan based on years of service.

With the new plan, an aid would see an increase of $5,386 raising their salary to $22,943; a custodian would see an increase of $2,532 raising their salary to $22,917; and administration would see an increase of $5,772 raising their salary to $75,505.

The cost to support the graded pay plan for support staff and administration is $797,800.

School board members also discussed the possibility of implementing the pay plan mid-year, but ultimately decided to ask supervisors to implement the change no later than July 1.

ED-3 trustee Sandra Garner-Coleman made a motion to that effect, which was seconded by ED-5 trustee Freddie Edmunds and unanimously approved by the board.

Prior to the vote, ED-8 trustee Walter Potts cautioned the board on using carryover funds then expecting supervisors to foot the bill once those funds are utilized.

“We can sit in la, la land all we want. We need it in writing,” said Potts.

Edmunds chimed in saying, “We can only do what is right. We need to look out for our workers.”

Garner-Coleman also said, “Optimism. Practice it.”

Also Monday evening, school board members received a health update from Lineburg who said the county’s positivity rate was 11.9%.

That rate measures the number of positive results against the overall COVID-19 tests administered.

Lineburg also said, as of Monday, there were 12 employees who had tested positive with COVID-19 since Aug. 1, and 51 students had tested positive with COVID-19. The superintendent also noted that of those 51 students, 24 of those tested positive prior to the first day of school and did not begin school.

He also said 133 students were out of school due to quarantine, as of Monday.

The good news, he said, is that there has not been any transmission in school meaning there has not been a connection between individuals who have tested positive for COVID-19 within the school system.

The school board also reviewed Standard of Learning results Monday evening that were released in August.

Dr. Jeanie Hawks, director of instructional technology and division testing, delivered the results that had dramatically decreased over the past year, but reflected a nationwide trend.

Local students tested lower than state averages in most subjects.

In reading, Clays Mill scored a 59; Cluster Springs scored a 64; Meadville scored a 48; Scottsburg scored a 60; Sinai scored a 46; South Boston scored a 48; Sydnor Jennings scored a 51; Halifax County Middle School scored a 60; and Halifax County High School scored a 69, the only school to meet the state average in reading.

In math, Clays Mill scored a 39; Cluster Springs scored a 32; Meadville scored a 25; Scottsburg scored a 37; Sinai scored a 24; South Boston scored a 18; Sydnor Jennings scored a 26; the middle school scored a 27; and the high school scored a 40.

In science, Clays Mill scored a 50; Cluster Springs scored a 37; Meadville scored a 30; Scottsburg scored a 16; Sinai scored a 19; South Boston scored a 27; Sydnor Jennings scored a 11; the middle school scored a 43; and the high school scored a 44.

Hawks noted that the COVID-19 pandemic caused disruptions throughout the school year and fewer retakes, and it allowed parents to opt their child out of taking the SOLs, which many chose to do.

Ashley Hodge is the editor for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at ahodge@gazettevirginian.com

Ashley Hodge is the editor for The Gazette-Virginian. Contact her at ahodge@gazettevirginian.com