It was raise day at the Orange County School Board meeting on Monday. By the close of the meeting, board members had voted to increase their salaries by about $2,000 per year. They also boosted Superintendent of Schools Dr. Cecil Snead’s annual pay by $7,000 and extended his contract until 2023.
District 5 representative Jim Hopkins made the motion during public session to give himself and his fellow board members a raise, effective January 1. The motion was approved unanimously. District 4 representative Bette Winter was absent.
The board unanimously approved a new contract for Snead after coming out of closed session. After the meeting, Snead said his salary will go up from about $148,000 to $155,000, effective July 1. His current four-year contract will be replaced by a new four-year contract ending June 30, 2023.
Hopkins tied the raise for school board members to the salary of Orange County supervisors. Based on his motion, the salary of school board members now will be half what the supervisors earn, with chair Sherrie Page making half what the chair of the supervisors makes.
Supervisors currently make $12,668 per year. Board chair Jim White earns an additional stipend for a total of $15,836.
Their raise will boost school board members from $4,455 to $6,334 per year, with Page getting a bump up to $7,918. Until now, her salary has been the same as the other school board members.’
According to chief deputy clerk of the board of supervisors Alyson Simpson, supervisors haven’t received a raise since at least 2013.
Although Hopkins said he couldn’t recall receiving a raise in the 12 years he has served, board members got a modest boost of $87 in 2015, according to school board clerk Laura Byram. She said board members previously made $4,368 per year.
“The board did not vote on an increase; however, their salaries were included in the increases that were given to all staff members” in 2015, Byram explained by email Tuesday morning.
In a written statement, Hopkins noted that both he and District 5 supervisor Lee Frame were first elected to their respective offices in 2007. When the two friends discussed salaries, Hopkins discovered he was making about a third of what his counterpart on the board of supervisors makes.
“I have a hard time accepting that my worth to the county is one-third of a supervisor. My supervisor and I put approximately the same amount of time into our jobs, so is this salary appropriate?” Hopkins wrote in his statement.
Hopkins said he and his fellow board members began talking about their salary several months ago. After giving the matter some thought, he decided “a rationale for a difference in salaries [between supervisors and school board representatives] could be justified based on our respective responsibilities. The supervisors are responsible for the county’s budget of $120 million, but one half of that budget or [approximately] $60 million is the sole responsibility of the school board.
“Therefore, I have concluded a judicious compensation for school board members would be one half of that of supervisors,” Hopkins wrote in his formal statement.
During discussion of the raise, District 1 representative Carol Couch said she felt “kind of awkward being up here voting ourselves a raise.”
She said that in her conversations with people in the community, some are surprised board members make any salary and others are surprised they don’t earn as much as county supervisors.
The board’s decision comes during an election year and was made after the filing deadline for candidates seeking office. All of the current members are running unopposed, so they are virtually assured of being the recipients of the raise.
Snead, meanwhile, was all smiles. Commenting after the meeting, he said board members made a “collective decision” to boost his salary and re-up his contract for an additional year.
“It’s a good vote of confidence,” said the superintendent, who has held the school division’s top post for a year. “I’m pleased to continue to serve the students in Orange County. They’ve really grown near and dear to my heart this year. The employees are top-notch, so it’s a great fit and a great place to be, and I’m thankful and very grateful to be a part of the family.”
Chatting in the Taylor Education Administration Complex parking lot after the meeting, board members expressed their faith in Snead.
“We’re very pleased with him as a leader and wanted to let him know,” said Couch.
District 3 representative Mike Jones added that as the father of three children in the Orange County Public Schools, he is happy with Snead’s work: “He’s going to continue to do well.”