Employee budget suggestions were provided by several county employees, covering each group division that provides student services, during the Montgomery County Public School Board meeting on Dec. 5, 2023.
This is in preparation for the board as they analyze the needs of the school system for the 2023-2024 budget.
Robbie Jones, MCPS Custodial Manager, provided information to the board about the custodian group’s needs for the next year’s budget. Along with new equipment used by custodial staff to replace the old and sometimes mismatched equipment and regular materials such as toilet paper, paper towels, hand soap and all associated cleaning materials, Jones also expressed a need for a better living wage for the custodial staff at MCPS.
“So many of our custodians who are starting at the bottom of the pay bands make less money per hour than going out and working a job in fast food. This is something that needs to change if funding is allowed in addition to custodians,” Jones said. “I also know that many of our warehouse and grounds crew employees are in the same boat.”
Administrative Aide, Instructional Aide, Lunch and Recess Aide positions, and Registrar Aide budget recommendations were presented by Para Educator Connie Blose.
Blose pointed out to the board that with the bus study time at the middle and high schools that occurs in the morning and evening times outside of the academic day, aides are utilized yet are not paid for their time. Aides are typically paid for 6.5 hours yet work a total of seven hours.
Electrical and Plumbing Lead Jamie Warren presented on behalf of the Carpenter, Buildings and Grounds, Electrician, HVAC, Painter, Plumber, Program Manager and Project Manager positions group.
The Facilities Department needs a bucket truck or lift that is necessary to safely replace lights such as those located in parking lots, as well as the lights themselves that are being slowly converted to LED.
“It’s becoming a safety issue because we have no way to reach them,” Warren said.
Additionally, two new zero-turn mowers, two trucks fitted with snowplows and a salt spreader, and HVAC materials and replacement parts that would allow for quick repair of units.
The Transportation Department’s budget presentation, which includes positions of Bus Aide, Bus Driver, Car/Van Transport, and MCPS mechanics, was given by Kim McGhee.
“Our buses look pretty good; we’ve got some new buses, and even our old buses look pretty good, so thank you for that,” McGhee said. “I want to thank you all for the new bus washing machine that we were able to purchase, and it’s been very efficient and effective.”
However, McGhee shared a similar story to the board that other departments are experiencing in keeping positions filled, specifically bus drivers. She stated that benefits and health insurance were what bus driving positions, and Aides, were lacking in keeping those roles filled.
Rachel Smith, Lead Speech Therapist for MCPS, spoke for the areas of school employees of Interpreter, Occupational Therapist, Physical Therapist, Psychologist, Board Certified Behavior Analyst (BCBA), and Speech.
Smith’s primary budgetary concerns focused primarily on an increase in salary for the speech therapy employees of MCPS, which she says is impacting their ability to recruit individuals needed in these roles.
According to Smith, current first-year speech therapists with a required master’s degree are “making around $4,000 less than a MCPS first-year licensed teacher with a master’s degree. What’s even more alarming is their salary is $1,700 less than a MCPS first-year licensed teacher with a bachelor’s degree.”
Representing MCPS’s nursing staff was Tracie Martin, serving the County as a nurse for 17 years, with a total service time of 30 years.
“I love being a school nurse,” Martin said. “I am thankful I can have a positive impact on our schools.”
Martin stated, that in addition to seeing students for daily needs such as injuries and illness, health administrators in the schools also provide hearing and vision screenings, provide CPR certifications, and many other services along with providing trainings for staff that are needed.
Nurses are also some of the other school employees that are paid for 6.5 hours when they often work a longer shift. Martin is also one of the employees that works additional hours at another job outside of her position in the schools. The nursing group is asking for an increase in pay for positions of all full-time and substitute nurse positions.
Lori Walls for the positions of Administrative Assistant, Bookkeeper, and HR/Payroll Specialist, echoed the thoughts of other presenters at the Board meeting, asking for additional pay for the group.
Technology- Specialist, Systems Integrator, Technician, and Testing Coordinator employees were represented by Tara Almoney. Almoney stated that with 15,000 Chromebooks in use, maintaining and repairing computers is a huge undertaking for the technology group. Security technology is also a high priority that the group is working to maintain and grow in the school system. Software programs and database systems are also numerous and require consistent management.
Housed in what is known as the old Christiansburg Middle School building, the historical building needs some renovations, according to Almoney. Along with improvements on windows, heating, and a men’s bathroom door, is potable drinking water in the building.
Almoney also suggested to the board that an increase in wages, funding for the department, or materials and equipment for the purpose of conducting their jobs would be welcomed.
Mike Hall spoke for the Purchasing and Warehouse groups. Hall expressed a consideration for vehicle purchase, as the four vehicles they are currently using for the entire district all have $150,000 or more miles on them and are driven approximately 90 miles or more each day.
Katie Seidemann, a teacher, and President of the Montgomery County Education Association (MCEA) delivered a message supporting Superintendent Dr. Bernard Bragen’s 5% increase in salary for teachers in MCPS.
“Virginia’s average teacher salary is $6,787 below the national average,” Seidemann said. “Additionally, teachers in Virginia are paid an average of 67 cents for each dollar paid to their similarly educated peers in other professions.”
Avoiding an increase in health insurance and funding to support positions in health and safety of the schools were also priorities mentioned by Seidemann.
Last to speak at the Board meeting was the Nutrition group, who also requested an increase of wages. The group is requesting a $2.00 an hour increase in pay. Their employees are currently being paid a wage of $13.00 an hour.