PWCS Markup Adds Security, Social Workers to FY19 Budget

| March 15, 2018 | 0 Comments | Education

Proposed Budget (Image by PWC Government)

The Prince William County School Board added funding for safety infrastructure improvements, new social workers, a few guidance counselors in its 2019 budget, but provided no COLA increases for teachers.

At a budget markup session Wednesday evening, the board met to discuss the FY19 budget.

The board approved funds for elementary school safety infrastructure improvements, 11 additional school social workers, three new counselors and an ombudsman to handle human resource issues.

They did not include a cost of living increase for employees in the budget, but they will get step increases next year.

Other increased costs went to hire one deputy attorney and clerical support, one human trafficking prevention employee, turf fields at Woodbridge Senior High School, and anti-gang ads to run in local movie theaters. Additionally, bus drivers were receiving a pay increase, going from step 5 to step 6.

The total for all markups came to $3.5 million, according to PWCS.

Security loomed large on everyone’s minds, and the board approved taking $1 million from FY18 “end of the year” funds to improve infrastructure security at some of the older elementary school buildings.

Easy improvements include items such as card locks for outside doors; however, details of improvements are being kept confidential.

Brentsville School Board representative Gil Trenum advocated for the funds being released this year and asked the school division to spend $1 million rather than the planned $750,000.

“These are not super expensive things,” Trenum said at the Brentsville safe schools panel town hall.

Another cause that resonated with people was the need for more educators who supply mental health and social services for students in light of the Parkland school shooting and issues regarding bullying.

At the request of Gainesville School Board member Alyson Satterwhite, the school board opted to hire 11 more social workers, nearly doubling the number across the division. Currently, the ratio of social workers to students is 1:2,300, when the recommended levels are 1:1,000. This would cut division ratios nearly in half.

School social works have also been asking for new hires so they can better serve their students.

“We are mental health professionals,” said a school social worker who spoke at School Safety discuss in Bristow, March 9. He said he deals with threat assessment, risk assessment, intervention as well as work directly with students, all in one day.

Often there is a line outside his door of kids he cannot get to that day before he has to go to another school.

Potomac board member Justin Wilk said he realized the need for more school social workers after he attended a student town hall meeting at Forest Park High School with student representative Kate Arnold.

He said the new hires are important to the social and mental health of the students. He also wanted to add six new counselors but “given the dimensions of the budget,” the board settled for three for next year.

One desire that not included in the budget was Cost of Living increase for salaried employees next year. They will get their step increases, an approximate 2.7 percent raise, however, neighboring districts are offering a 5-6 percent raise for 2019.

Many teachers advocated for an additional two percent to stay competitive at a cost of $15 million to the county. Knowing budget limitations, Wilk, a former teacher, proposed an additional one percent raise on top of their step at a cost of approximately $7 million.

He was the only board member to vote to allocate that funding.

Wilk said they could revisit the raise if the school division gets more money from the state or the county, which is unlikely.

“Honestly, we can revisit it later but a lot of people don’t think that’s going to happen.” Still, he said he wants to keep the issue “on the forefront.”

Clay Wood teacher Maggie Hansford, who helped lead the advocacy for the COLA raise, was disappointed to learn the item will not likely be included in the budget.

“I am disappointed in the board’s decision to reject the COLA at any percentage and well work to ensure that PWCS teachers and staff are fairly paid. Retaining experienced, excellent teachers is an important part of ensuring a world-class education for our children,” Hansford said.

Wilk said overall the budget was tight this year.

© 2018, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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