New Social Worker, Teacher Raises Are Top Northampton School Budget Requests

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Photo by Stefanie Jackson – Northampton school board members receive Virginia School Board Association certificates of recognition at their meeting in the Northampton High School media center Feb. 21. Board members from left to right are Paul Bibbins, Maxine Rasmussen, Nancy Proto, Chairman William Oakley, Stephanie Castro, Jo Ann Molera, and Randy Parks.

By Stefanie Jackson – At a Feb. 26 public hearing on the Northampton County Public Schools budget for the 2019-2020 school year, the proposal that garnered the most public support was the addition of a school social worker.

“The key for you to improve is going to be the social worker,” said William Prosise. “Right now, the administrators are spending all their time on discipline rather than working with young teachers and doing the things that they need to be doing.”

“I definitely see the benefit of having a social worker,” Charlena Jones said, thanking the school board for including nearly $2,500 in the budget for Mandt training for behavioral support aides.

Named for its developer, David Mandt, the program will teach aides how to de-escalate aggressive student behaviors and prevent physical harm.

The school board budgeted about $60,000 each for the social worker and an additional guidance counselor.

The social worker would reinforce the emotional and behavioral support base supplied to students by school psychologists and guidance counselors, and it would add a missing element – someone to act as a home liaison and case manager.

In accordance with state recommendations, teachers will get a pay raise of about 3 percent next year and 2 percent the following year, for a total of 5 percent over two years.

In Northampton, the teacher raise will be calculated by the midpoint method.

Northampton teachers earn between approximately $37,000 and $60,000, meaning that about $48,000 is a mid-range salary. All teachers will receive around 2.5 percent of that amount, or $1,175. For teachers at the top of the pay scale, that equals about a 2 percent raise, but for teachers at the bottom, it’s more than 3 percent.

All other school employees will receive raises of 1.75 percent, 2 percent, or 2.25 percent, depending on whether their wages are above, near, or below what others are earning in similar positions in similar job markets.

The school board plans to increase the health insurance contribution for each eligible employee by $20 per month, the same increase as last year, at a cost of about $70,000.

The compensation increases add about $490,000 in expenditures to the proposed budget.

Salaries and benefits account for 79 percent of the budget. The next largest spending category is contractual services, just 7 percent of budgeted expenses.

The school division saves money by paying a contractor to perform a certain task rather than hire an additional employee – for example, if one student’s IEP (Individualized Education Program) requires the services of a physical therapist.

One program that wasn’t included in the budget but was given a second chance by the school board is the Swipe attendance record management system used at Northampton High School.

The program requires students to check in and out of school by swiping their ID cards. After the program was implemented, the number of students who missed 18 or more school days in a one-year period dropped by more than half.

School board member Randy Parks motioned to add the Swipe program to the budget, seconded by school board member Nancy Proto, and it passed unanimously. The software will cost $2,500.

Increased costs for items such as fuel, electricity, telecommunications services, computer equipment, and software will require more funding totaling about $264,000 in addition to the extra money needed for salaries and benefits.

However, savings from unfilled positions, decreases in unemployment payments, and other sources total about $285,000 that can be used for other needs.

Northampton schools’ current total operating budget is about $21.6 million, of which approximately $8.8 million is funded by the county. This year, the school board proposes a total operating budget increase of 1.9 percent, and it will ask the county for about $345,000 more, or around $9.1 million total from the county.

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