Committee to Study Board Pay

WINNSBORO – The Fairfield County School Board, at their May 19 meeting, voted to form a committee to study increasing the Board’s $35 a month salary. The vote and discussion came after State Sen. Creighton Coleman (D-17) and State Rep. MaryGail Douglas (D-41), in whose hands the final decision for a pay raise rests, addressed the Board on the matter.

“We’re open to anything,” Coleman said. “The key is to find the sweet spot. I think the $35 a meeting is very low. I think we need to look at overall compensation statewide. I think it’s absolutely critical that we provide the best education we can for our kids in the most economical way that we can by the taxpayers. That’s the sweet spot that ya’ll are going to have to find.”

Coleman asked the Board to present a recommendation to the legislative delegation and to provide justification for the pay raise, while Douglas said the concept would require some selling to the public.

“It is going to meet resistance,” Douglas said. “You know that already. We need to do our homework and do it well and do it in a way that really educates folks out there.”

Douglas said she has already received some negative feedback from constituents on the idea.

“The comment to me, when they first read it in the paper a couple of weeks ago, was ‘How dare they?’” Douglas said. “The question that I posed to them was ‘Would you do it for that?’ The time that people have is of value. If we do it in the right way and a very respectful way I think it will end on a positive note.”

Board member Annie McDaniel (District 4) prodded the delegation, asking why they were so receptive to an issue she said they had opposed in the past.

“I’m just curious as to what really triggered you guys to think we’re deserving to be paid,” McDaniel said, “when now we meet only once a month and meet for about two hours and not doing nowhere near the work into knowing what’s going on in this district now as we did in the past.”

But Douglas said she wasn’t going to “wallow in what happened years ago.”

What brought her to the table, she said, was a phone call she had received from The Voice newspaper after the matter was first discussed last month.

“I want to address what is good for this county and in this particular school district,” Douglas said. “I don’t know if you think there’s an underlying agenda here. There is no agenda here except that whenever that discussion started among you, we were brought into that. We are on a level playing ground, as far as I’m concerned, as to how we move forward from here.”

The Discussion

Henry Miller (District 3), who first brought the matter to the floor last month, proposed a monthly payment of $625 for each Board member, plus an additional $100 for the chairperson. If the chairperson was absent from a meeting, that additional $100 would go to whoever chaired that meeting – in most cases, the vice chairperson.

Andrea Harrison (District 1) asked if the $625 would take the place of any other monthly payments made to Board members, such as mileage. Miller agreed that it would.

William Frick (District 6) suggested that, since it was not likely that the matter could get through the General Assembly before this year’s session ends next month, the Board create a committee to study the question.

“You have some districts that don’t pay anything,” Frick said, “and then the ones that do pay, there are about five or six that pay less than we do. The vast majority pay fairly well. Some $10,000 a year. To have some sense of where we belong in a category that goes from zero to $25 a month to $10,000 a year, I would like to see if we could get a sense of where we fit in with those other districts.”

“This absolutely cannot be a fly by night, hand out one sheet of paper kind of deal,” Harrison agreed. “I’m willing to serve on the committee. It has to be done thoroughly and in detail, and we have to justify every dime.”

The committee passed on a 5-1 vote, with Paula Hartman (District 2) voting in opposition and McDaniel casting no vote at all. Harrison, Miller and Carl Jackson (District 5) will serve on the committee.


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