To compete with nearby counties that offer incentives to incoming and seasoned educators, Manassas teachers are seeking an 8 percent raise next year. It would increase the average salary by $3,500.

Although salaries in the city's schools have risen almost 20 percent in three years, another pay increase is necessary if Manassas wants to hire and retain the most qualified teachers, said David McGlothlin, the president of the Manassas Education Association.

"With the recent teacher shortage . . . it's important to keep teachers that do qualified work. We don't want to lose them," McGlothlin said at a School Board meeting Tuesday.

The association also asked the Manassas School Board for signing bonuses and a lucrative benefit package to avoid facing the teacher shortage that Prince William County and other jurisdictions have had this fall.

Many school systems in Northern Virginia expressed concerns earlier this year that there wouldn't be enough qualified teachers to begin the school year. In Fairfax County, more than 300 teacher slots remained vacant one month before classes began. Several schools, including some in Prince William, were forced to hire long-term substitutes until the positions could be permanently filled.

Last year the Manassas School Board gave city teachers a 5.7 percent raise, topping the starting salary at $30,000. That sum is just a few hundred dollars less than in Prince William, which approved a 6.1 percent raise for its teachers last year.

McGlothlin said that even with the recent raise, many teachers have left the school system because they are willing to travel farther for better-paying jobs.

"It's to our benefit to hire more qualified teachers and to offer them competitive salaries," he said.

McGlothlin also asked the School Board to fund additional teaching positions for English as a second language teaching at the city's elementary, middle and high schools.

School Superintendent James E. Upperman said he would consider all requests when creating his budget proposal, which he will present to board members in January.

Also requesting funding from the board this week were students and parents of Osbourn High School's marching band. They told the board of broken instruments--many of them older than the players--that are being held together with duct tape and glue.

Tanisha Paige, a senior at Osbourn, said her alto saxophone has broken on more than one occasion.

"It's hard to play and enjoy when the instruments falls apart in your hands," she told board members.

The School Board will continue to hear funding requests through the fall. After the budget is prepared, it will be presented to the City Council in the spring.