Berkeley County schools finding ways to provide some benefits in light of no pay increases

May 28, 2012|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD |

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. — There are no pay raises in the next fiscal year budget for Berkeley County Schools employees, but the $158 million spending plan for the general fund approved last week does include increases in benefits.

The school district will shoulder a greater share of health insurance premiums and also made adjustments to improve dental and vision plans, according to Superintendent Manny P. Arvon.

The sick-leave bonus was increased from $1,250 to $1,500. The bonus is based on the number of sick days a teacher uses during the school year.

“It rewards people (for not missing work), but more importantly, the best instruction occurs when our faculty are present in the classroom,” said Arvon, who touted the school district as a leader among counties in West Virginia for benefits provided to employees.

Additional changes in the 2012-13 budget, which begins July 1, include the addition of 10 days to the contracts of principals at schools for kindergarten through fifth grade.

Among specific personnel changes that were separately approved last week by the board by a 4-1 vote was the hiring of a math coordinator to work in the central office. Board member Ron Gray voted against the personnel actions and abstained from one item concerning a person related to him by marriage.

“West Virginia has some of the worst math scores in the country,” Arvon said of the decision to create the position.

Hedgesville High School math teacher Anne Laskey, who was appointed to the job, was among several administrative personnel moves that were made possible by retirements and attribution of central office staff, Arvon said.

No additional positions are being added at the central office, Arvon said.

“We’re as light (on staff) as can be in here,” Arvon said in an interview at his office.

Positions are routinely evaluated when vacancies occur to determine whether the school district needs to redirect resources to improve upon what it is doing to meet the challenges of the next 15 to 20 years, Arvon said.

Arvon, whose secretary was among nearly 50 employees recognized for retiring this year, said technology is allowing him not to fill the position.

“We will always need secretaries, but we will be using them differently than we have been in the past,” Arvon said.

A total of seven vacancies have allowed for the hiring of two human resources staff members and a student support services coordinator, Arvon said.

“Frankly, I feel very comfortable where we are (with staffing) in Berkeley County, period,” Arvon said.

Gray questioned if the central office changes should have been done, given recent budget challenges.

“If this is beneficial to our kids, then I’m all for it, 100 percent,” Gray said.

In other business, Arvon said the school district will open contractors’ bids June 21 on site-preparation work for the new Gerrardstown Middle School.

Officials anticipate the new middle school in southern Berkeley County will help ease severe overcrowding at Musselman Middle School. 

Arvon said the second phase of construction and renovation at North Middle School is on track to begin this summer.

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