Aiken school district concerned with non-competitive salaries
Aiken County School District administrators and School Board members are planning a formal study to compare the School District's salary schedules to others of similar enrollments and per capita income.
They will meet on Tuesday at 7 p.m. at the District office, 1000 Brookhaven Drive.
Levi Green, the School Board's vice chairman, readily acknowledged the Aiken County School District has been losing principals, assistant principals and other administrators to other districts.
“I've long thought our salaries are not competitive,” he said. “I think it's the right approach to look at this.”
The School Board will soon appoint a successor to Bryan Skipper, the South Aiken High School principal who is leaving for the same position at a Greenville County high school.
Skipper wanted to return to the area where he started his education career, but that's not the only factor, he said. The Greenville School District has a higher salary schedule, he said.
“It's definitely an issue on attracting people to come to Aiken,” Skipper said. “When there's a vacancy, it hurts the pool of candidates. I asked (Greenville administrators) about assistant principals, and they'll get 200 people to apply.”
Jim Hooper's experience is even more striking.
He had enjoyed his work as the principal at Ridge Spring-Monetta Elementary-Middle School; but four years ago, Hooper moved across the Savannah River to become an Evans High School assistant principal.
The Aiken and Columbia schools systems are excellent, but “the pay was a part of it,” Hooper said. “My salary didn't change, and my schedule went from 240 days to 205. They're behind the times in Aiken.”
Dr. Beth Everitt, the Aiken County School District superintendent, agreed with Green that the District has found times where talented staffers have gone to Georgia and other counties.
She also recognizes the factors that Hooper described.
“We know of the cases we deal with here, and some are going to take advantage of it,” Everitt said. “We want to be as competitive as possible to attract the best staff, and just want to see if it is really fact.”
The Aiken County Board of Education will meet on Tuesday for its regular meeting, and School Board members are expected to approve the study and hire a firm to conduct it.
Tray Traxler, the School District comptroller, said the study would not exceed $73,000.
Todd Bornscheuer spent 20 years in the Aiken County School District and was the North Augusta High School principal before leaving the county in 2013.
He took the principal's position at H.L. McCracken Middle School in Beaufort County, welcoming the opportunity to raise his children in a coastal environment.
But in that county, “I can maintain and improve a standard of living for my family in, essentially, the same role,” Bornscheuer said. “It's painful, because Aiken was my home, and we made it home. It's also painful to see how lacking Aiken is in the competitive market. The salary schedule is definitely higher in Beaufort.”
Senior writer Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter and has been with the newspaper since September 2001. He is a native of Walterboro and majored in journalism at the University of Georgia.
School Board meeting set
Aiken County School Board members will meet at the School District office, 1000 Brookhaven Drive, on Tuesday at 7 p.m.
School Board members actually will arrive at 6 p.m. to hear disciplinary student appeals in closed session.
District administrators will present the tentative 2014-15 budget. Currently, the Board has no plans to raise taxes through an increase in the millage rate.