SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - Key players with the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System have met for the past two days during their annual fall retreat. They hit on many topics impacting teachers and students. Teacher pay, compensation, and the school calendar were just some of the topics discussed.
"Well, we start talking about governance and building positive relationships and all that stuff annually that you have to do to check in with each other as you work together," said Jolene Byrne, School Board President.
The starting salary in Savannah for teachers with a degree and certification is $41,000. One of the issues that officials are running into is people being trained and leaving to work in another district that pays more. The current five-year pay plan does not give teachers the incentives to stay. Out of the 18 largest school districts, SCCPSS is the 18th in pay for teachers with experience. Bryne says they want to be more competitive and make the livelihood of their teachers and staff better.
"We recognize how important they are to us and we appreciate the hard work they do," Byrne said. "We understand that they are underpaid and that as much as we want to, we will never actually be able to pay them what they're worth, but that doesn't mean we aren't going to keep trying."
Working together is key. If you remember, earlier this month, Byrne said she was blindsided by a letter from fellow board members, chastising the Facebook posts she made as the school system worked to decide whether or not to cancel class ahead of Hurricane Irma. She also posted about canceling schools before the solar eclipse back in August - a post she also had to take down because she says the official announcement had to come from the superintendent's office. Now, she says these retreats give them the opportunity to get into more in-depth conversations figuring out the most important direction to take.
"These are important because while we have public meetings, those meetings are very agenda-driven and businesslike, so we have a very limited scope of time to talk about things," Byrne said.
From these meetings, they will take the information back to the board meetings so they can put some action behind them for changes in the future. Dr. Ann Levett says that conversations including teacher pay and compensation will be a top priority during their next budget meeting.