Teachers representing all 15 public schools in Alexandria criticized the School Board and Superintendent Robert W. Peebles last night for what they called a short-sighted salary proposal.
The pay plan is designed to lure new teachers into the system by boosting beginning salaries more than the pay of veteran teachers.
Teachers arrived for last night's public hearing on the school budget with packets of phony money stamped with the pictures of School Board members and argued that the pay plan shows a lack of long term commitment to keep good teachers.
"There does seem to be a willingness to attract new teachers, but no willingness or financial commitment to retain those teachers," said Pam Walkup, president of the Education Association of Alexandria.
School officials responded that the disproportionate raises reflect a desire to stay competitive with neighboring school districts without exceeding spending guidelines.
"We must raise beginning salaries because neighboring systems are raising theirs and we compete for the same candidates. If we raise the salaries for the most experienced teachers by the same extent, their salaries would be significantly higher than our competition," Executive Director for Personnel John E. DuVall wrote in a memo distributed last night.
At issue is the salary index, a schedule that has determined for 18 years what Alexandria teachers earn and has kept raises at the top of the scale in line with those for starting teachers. Under the index, if the salary for a beginning teacher goes up 10 percent, all salaries must rise by the same proportion.
Under Peebles' proposal, salaries for beginning teachers with no experience would rise from $18,200 to $20,000, an increase of 9.9 percent. The average teacher salary would rise 7.7 percent. Maximum salaries for the most experienced teachers would go up 6.1 percent from $40,268 to $42,733. Based on the old schedule and an index salary of $20,000, Walkup said, the most experienced teachers would earn $45,000.
"This is not a bright promise for prospective new teachers, nor for those who have served you loyally and well," said Dave Whitehill, a teacher at Francis C. Hammond Junior High.