On June 22, the Jefferson County Board of Education unanimously voted to approve at least $294,000 in pay raises for 38 school administration and program management positions.
The “stipend” pay raises, which are funded through money the school system receives through extra or “excess” property tax levies, were adopted after no public discussion or acknowledgment was made about them. The pay raises were approved as part of a series of technical, seemingly routine personnel policy updates briefly referenced within a 325-page document.
The Spirit of Jefferson continues to wait for more information to report fully on the pay raises. Current school board member Donna Joy of Shepherdstown was not on the board when the pay raises were adopted.
Representatives from several open-government and education-establishment organizations declined to comment on the school board’s actions regarding the administrator pay raises. Those include the League of Women Voters of Jefferson County, the West Virginia Press Association, the West Virginia American Civil Liberties Union, the West Virginia Education Association and the American Federation of Teachers of West Virginia.
Here’s what a few current and former public officials in Jefferson County did say for the record.
“I support local control, but along with that should come local accountability and transparency. It concerns me greatly that these pay raises occurred without much or any input from the public or even the [school] board members. I would have preferred to see the local school board prioritize paying teachers more, since we can, because the Education Reform Bill legalized locality pay.”
—Patricia Rucker, Republican state senator for Jefferson County who serves as chairman of the West Virginia Senate Education Committee
“First and foremost, the school board has a responsibility for the education of all students. The [school] board should ensure that students get the best education for the tax dollars spent. With that said, I believe the board members should be able to defend and support controversial board decisions with supported data.”
— Larry Togans, former
Jefferson County school board member
“I know that it’s important to be competitive in keeping up with wages and benefits. I don’t have any issues with deserving employees getting wage increases. We all do what we can to try to retain good employees and that mostly involves wages that are competitive with surrounding areas.
“Whenever it involves using public money, the one thing that should never happen is to make it look like we’re hiding something. It doesn’t even matter if we are trying to be transparent, because it can be published in the media, but if someone misses it, there are always conspiracy theorists out there just waiting to make it an issue.
“That said, we are always better off making darned sure that the information is public and can easily be found in public records or easily accessible on the internet, and it is better to do it during budget deliberations when more people are paying attention to spending. Anything short of that guarantees that accusations will fly and trouble is sure to follow.”
—Patsy Noland, Jefferson County
“The Jefferson County Central Office administration pay raises were done with zero transparency using Jefferson County taxpayers’ money. The raises were approved a very bad timing. The money could have been used for better purposes by hiring extra teachers and staff to allow small classrooms for safety and social distancing during this pandemic.”
—Steve Stolipher, Jefferson County Planning
Commission member and a Republican candidate
for Jefferson County Commission