School Board Ratifies Teacher Raises

Chris Shearer

Contributing Writer

NEWARK- The Worcester County Board of Education ratified an agreement which will provide a slight pay raise for Worcester County teachers in the 2016-2017 school year.

The agreement between the county, the Worcester County Teachers’ Association, and the County Educational Support Personnel Association was approved and signed on Tuesday. The agreement provides for a step increase in the wages of eligible employees, and a one-percent wage increase to improve all salaries.

“The big thing is the salary,” Board President Jonathan Cook said. “Although we are not where we once were we’ve made some progress.”

Cook also noted the importance of this pay raise and how it will help attract better quality educators to Worcester County.

The $102 million school budget, which is made up of slightly less than $83 million in county appropriations and $19 million in state aid, had allocated for the increase which impacts more than 600 eligible employees for the STEP increase and more than 500 for the one-percent raise.

Worcester County’s starting teaching salary had dipped to 19th in the state, but the increase will bring the starting teacher salary to a little more than $43,000.

“Worcester County is about our people,” said Cook. “That’s where our budget is.”

The County Commissioners must now approve the public school budget, and that decision is expected sometime in mid- to late June.

In addition, the Board of Education Snow Hill’s Digital Literacy Initiative began this year. The program is based around the idea that Students may be “device” literate but not necessarily “program” literate. For example, students might know how to use email, but they might not know how to use Microsoft Outlook properly.

“We know that our students have used devices for social purposes,” said Snow Hill High School Principal Kimberly Purvis. “But our kids struggle with using devices for instructional purposes.”

The initiative distributed laptops to all of the freshmen at Snow Hill High School and evaluates their digital literacy through evaluations and assessments. Technology is also worked in throughout the curriculum and incorporated into their daily lives.

“For students to truly be college and career ready, they need the necessary computer skills”, said Purvis.

Focusing further south in Worcester County, a presentation on Pocomoke High School outlined the first year of the initiative called “Project 100.”

The project focuses on having 100-percent of Pocomoke High School students committed to some sort of continuing education after they leave high school.

“A high school diploma isn’t enough anymore to be competitive in the world job market,” said Dr. Annette Wallace, who is the current principal of Pocomoke High School. “The program does this by seeking out opportunities for college bound students, as well as students for whom college isn’t the right fit.”

Partnerships with small colleges and universities, the military, and workforce development programs are all included in the Project 100.

“This clearly is going to help the students understand career,” said Cook. “I see the transition into the career world immediately.”

In the program’s first year, of the 93 Pocomoke seniors in the class of 2015, 88 of them were committed to a post high school education plan.