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School Board Approves Pay Hike

WATER VALLEY – Teachers in the Water Valley School District will get a pay increase in the coming year after the school board approved a $650 annual boost to the local supplement paid by the district. The local increase follows a $1,500 increase approved by state legislators during the 2019 Legislative Session for all teachers and teacher’s assistants in the state.

Water Valley School District Business Manager Randy Goodwin explained that the teacher’s pay scale is set by the state and is separate from the local supplement that each school district is required to provide. He also noted that the local supplement the district currently pays ranges from $350 per year for a teacher with a bachelor’s degree up to $650 for a teacher with a doctorate. With the increase, in the 2019-20 school year the district’s supplement will range from $1,000 to $1,300 for almost 90 teachers employed by the district.

“We have been talking about this for years, this will bring our local supplement in line with some of our neighboring schools like Calhoun County,” Goodwin told the Herald after the meeting.

Input from School Board

“Guys, it is the right thing to do,” Trustee Taylor Trusty explained in Monday’s meeting before the unanimous vote. 

“We may have to scrimp and scrounge somewhere else, but the teachers are where the rubber hits the road. That is where our students and their education happens,” Board President Pierce Epes noted.

The salary increase from the state will be funded by the Mississippi Department of Education while the increase in the local supplement will come from the local tax base.

“I know that means we are going to have to ask for more of an increase in our (tax) millage this summer, but I think it is worth it for the teachers,” Trusty said.

Goodwin told trustees that he had discussed the potential raise with incoming superintendent Jerry Williams, who said he was in favor of it if the district has the funds.

Mississippi teachers on average earn $44,659, according to the MDE.

Other business handled at the meeting included:

• Trustees voted for the superintendent to establish a graduation location policy for the coming school year after Trusty shared concerns he has fielded from the public about having graduation in the gym this year.

“There is a lot of uproar about graduation and it being moved to the gym,” Trusty noted.

“What is their concern about moving it to the gym?” Superintendent Dr. Michael McInnis asked.

“Number one is, they want to graduate on the football field. Number two, that gym isn’t going to hold everybody,” Trusty explained.

“What is the capacity of the gym?” McInnis asked.

“900 in the bleachers and 1,200 total,” Water Valley High School Principal Drew Pitcock answered.

“I graduated in that gym, it is going to be packed,” Trusty said.

“We have 60 graduates, if every graduate brings 15 people, that is 900,” Pitcock estimated.

“What I wanted tonight is less about this year, because I don’t know of anything we can do this year. I would like to establish a board policy on the location of graduation. Establishing where it is going to be and an alternate location. And if anything changes from that, then it comes before the board and gets board approved,” Trusty stated.

“That way we take the heat for it,” Epes agreed.

“And it can be out in the public for public discussion ahead of time,” Trusty added.

• Discussed the ongoing work on the high school gym including the timeline for completion for refinishing the hardwood floor prior to graduation scheduled at the facility on May 24. 

“We may not be completely finished before graduation, but they are going to have it in a condition where we can use it,” Epes said about the contractors working on the project. Epes explained that the new air conditioning is operating to cool the building and reduce humidity, which will help take the moisture out of the floor so work can begin.

• Presented certificates of excellence to teachers and students for achievements. Shelbi Brown was named Teacher of the Month at Davidson Elementary School for April. She was presented a certificate by DES Principal Valeree Ellis and school board member Jill Clark during the meeting.

“She is consistently working in her classroom, working hard with her students with growth on their data. She has excellent command in her classroom and her students respect her. She is a phenomenal teacher,” Barnes reported about Brown.

Next Faith Irby was recognized as DES Student of the Month for April, a selection made by Brown. 

“Faith is the hardest working student and she has a heart of gold. She is kind, she is respectful and she is always doing what she is supposed to do,” Ellis explained.

Chrystee Hamilton was recognized as Water Valley High School Teacher of the Month. Hamilton is a Health Science instructor and does a phenomenal job, Pitcock reported.

• Entered executive discussion for personnel items. Epes reported the topics includes recommendations for hiring, resignations and wrap-up on the superintendent search.

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