GLOUCESTER CO., Va. (WAVY) – Dozens of parents, teachers and community members packed a Gloucester County auditorium on Tuesday night to fight for more public school funding.
“We want to just try to make sure that we put Gloucester County Public Schools in a position where we’re able to attract and retain quality staff,” said Superintendent Dr. Walter Clemons.
Clemons presented his budget proposal before school board members and county officials in the T.C. Walker Auditorium. The proposal requests more than $1.3 million in additional funds from the county. The majority of the money would be used for increasing staff salaries by six percent.
One by one, community members took the podium, pleading with the County Board of Supervisors to approve the deal.
“Teaching in Gloucester County over the last eight years means that you’re living on a fixed income, or even a diminishing income,” said one teacher. Applause filled the auditorium following her remark.
According to Clemons, school staff members haven’t received a pay increase in five of the last seven years. Teachers in the division earn less than the state average, and less than teachers in several nearby divisions.
Some teachers told the crowd that respected educators have left Gloucester County for higher-paying jobs. Others made the case that Gloucester County Public Schools are “fully accredited” and rank among only 12 in the state to meet all “Federal Annual Measurable Objectives.”
“They have met goal after goal after goal, one of our teachers last year was the teacher of the year for this whole eastern Virginia, they’ve won all sorts of awards and they deserve better,” said Beth Gibson, a parent and local business owner.
Gibson told county leaders that increasing school funding benefits businesses.
“Having fully funded schools improves our local economy,” she said.
John Meyer, chairman of the Gloucester County Board of Supervisors told 10 On Your Side that he agrees the division’s teachers deserve more compensation.
“I support paying our teachers more and we’ll find a way to do it,” he said.
Doing so, however, might not mean approving the proposed budget as is.
“This is just the beginning of a long process where we look at all of the county budget items,” Meyer said. “We’ll be picking through the school’s budget pretty aggressively over the next few weeks.”
Meyer said that providing the requested funds would definitely result in a tax increase.
“I hate raising taxes, but sometimes you know we might have to do it, we won’t know how much until we’ve got a chance to pursue the budget,” Meyer said.
A second public hearing has been scheduled for 7 p.m. March 30 in the auditorium. A county budget will be voted on in April.