FCSD salary debate grows testy

WINNSBORO – Once again questions over compensation arose during the Fairfield County School District board meeting.

And once again, discussions got thorny at times.

For nearly 40 minutes, board member Annie McDaniel sparred with Superintendent Dr. J.R. Green and board chairman William Frick over district salaries during the July meeting.

At one point, McDaniel, who is running for the District 41 Representative in the State House, suggested board recordings of prior discussions had been removed from the district’s website.

“Normally we have a tape that reflects the full conversation,” McDaniel said. “For some reason, I didn’t see that tape on there today.”

“Are you insinuating I’m part of some conspiracy now, Ms. McDaniel?” Frick replied.

At issue was a motion approved during the June 5 meeting that directed Green to develop options in which every employee makes at least $20,000 a year.

As of Sunday, video of the meeting was viewable on the district’s website. And on that video, the motion the board approved instructed Green to present options that result in every employee making $20,000 a year.

McDaniel pressed Green for other options at the July meeting. She grew frustrated over Green’s and Frick’s responses that Green was carrying out the board’s instructions to the letter of the law.

McDaniel also said she hoped to vote to increase salaries that night. Board members said Green’s plan was presented for information only, and no votes were taken.

“The concern was the sensitivity and the compassion for people making $13,000, $14,000 a year,” McDaniel said. “Whether I asked for a horse ride, a donkey or a monkey jumping upside down, for you guys not to take this seriously, I can’t even come up with the word for it.”

“The board directed me to present an option, so I presented an option,” Green replied. “I told you from my professional expertise the only way I can do it is to increase the hourly rate.”

Frick agreed.

“That was the motion. It was voted upon,” Frick said. “I asked Ms. McDaniel to clarify. The motion was to bring back options to make sure no employees make less than $20,000 a year.”

Green’s proposal increases starting hourly wages from $10.67 to $15.45 for Salary Class 1010 employees, which includes bus monitors, food service/cafeteria operators and safety officers.

Class 1020 employees, including custodians, wouldn’t receive raises. They earn $11.67 an hour with zero years of experience.

Green said the disparity is due to days worked. Class 1010 employees work 190 days while Class 1020 employees work 250 days, which is why Class 1010 employees earn less, he said.

Because of the disparity, Green and other board members instead supported a comprehensive overhaul of the district’s salary schedule.

“The only way you can ensure that there is no employee in the district that makes less than $20,000 is to increase the hourly rate,” Green said. “It is not feasible to say we’re going to have every employee work 245 or 260 days. The question would be what they would do for the 245 or 260 days.”

Board members Sylvia Harrison and Henry Miller chimed in, both expressing support for a comprehensive salary overhaul.

“I want to see Dr. Green bring an option back where everybody is considered to get a raise,” Harrison said. “I do like the fact that the support staff need a bigger raise, but I’d like to see an option for everybody because they all deserve a raise.”

McDaniel opposed waiting for a comprehensive salary, saying it would be too time-intensive when employees are struggling to make ends meet.

“Are we going to just leave this tonight, or are we going to wait two years down the road after we get a salary study, which is a waste of money?” she said. “We’re talking about people making $13,000, $14,000 a year. That is awful.”

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