Worcester Parents Seek Teacher Raises, Increased Technology Funding

NEWARK – Appeals for raises for teachers and funding for technology topped budget requests made to the Worcester County Board of Education this week.

Representatives of School Improvement Advisory Committees (SIAC) from throughout the county shared their schools’ requests during a public budget input meeting Dec. 2.

Salary increases for teachers and funds for technology were asked for by each school.

“Teachers are demonstrably the most important resource we have,” said Todd Ferrante, the parent representing Ocean City Elementary School’s SIAC.

It was a sentiment echoed by each school’s representatives when it was their turn to speak.

“In Worcester County, people make the difference,” said Donna Hughes, a Pocomoke High School parent.

Beth Shockley-Lynch, president of the Worcester County Teachers’ Association, reminded the school board that teachers did not receive raises between 2010 and 2012. Although they have had pay increases the last three years, many teachers are still not at their appropriate place on the pay scale. She said Worcester County was the only Lower Shore county where that was the case.

She pointed out that a teacher with 14 years of experience in Wicomico County made between $5,800 and $7,300 more than a teacher with the same amount of experience in Worcester County. In Somerset, a teacher with that amount of experience made $2,200 to $6,100 more than a Worcester teacher.

“These are tough facts for me to swallow,” Shockley-Lynch said. “I come from a time when teachers were fighting to come to Worcester County … Returning Worcester teachers to a salary that is fair based on experience will help ensure Worcester County students continue to get the best instruction.”

Board of Education member Doug Dryden said Worcester County ranked 16th on the teacher salary scale in Maryland.

“We have a lot of work to do,” he said. “We want to do the best we can for teachers.”

Along with the requests for raises for teachers came appeals for additional technology funding. The school system’s $95 million budget this year included $400,000 for technology.

Parents stressed that the latest technology was necessary if Worcester County graduates were going to compete nationally and globally.

“Technology will be used in every aspect of the professional lives of our students,” Ferrante said.

Buckingham Elementary School parent Dawn Scher echoed his concerns. She said that at Palmer’s Appliances, her family’s company in Berlin, even assistants and installers had to be computer literate.

Parent Charma Quick said that at Pocomoke Elementary School, where nearly three quarters of the students received free or reduced meals, many children didn’t have access to computers at home.

“We are in a digital world and our children must have access to the appropriate technology,” she said.

School board members assured the parents their requests had been heard.

“We as a board have a fiduciary responsibility to do our jobs,” board member Jonathan Cook said, “but we are parents as well. We have an emotional responsibility to advocate every day for the kids in this school system.”