The 2014-2015 salary schedule for the Mobile County Public School System was approved unanimously last week but immediately following the decision two members of the board of school commissioners voiced concerns over inequities in the document that guides the salaries of 7,500 employees.

“I know we approved the salary schedule for today, but going forward we need to take a look at some things to make sure we’re being fair to everyone,” District 2 board member Donald Stringfellow said last Friday.

Stringfellow reinforced concerns expressed by District 5 representative Dr. William Foster, both of whom serve on the board’s human resources committee. Foster said there were “a lot of inequities within the salary schedule,” and the system “has put Band-Aid on them for a number of years.”

According to Superintendent Martha Peek, the board is required to revisit and approve the salary schedule at the beginning of each fiscal year, but after the special-called meeting Friday, Foster said the board had not “overhauled” the entire schedule since approximately 2005.

“I especially think we need to eliminate all the jobs that have no one in them at the present time, that way we can decrease the number and reorganize things so it makes a little more sense,” Foster said. “Then we can take some input from the committees of the different groups to determine where those inequities are, and see if we can’t eliminate those in the coming year.”

Foster said he and Stringfellow would consult with the system’s human resources department to discuss the schedule going forward.

“When you’re looking at a salary schedule for 7,500 people, it takes time to review it and really think about it,” Peek said. “Once we do that, we’ll move forward and look at the format, structure, salaries and job titles in the coming year.”

There are approximately 3,218 teachers in the system, which together with the entire instructional staff costs $276 million annually. Support staff and administrators create an additional $55 million in salary expenses.

Foster later confirmed that the “inequities” he mentioned were referencing groups like the secretaries of assistant superintendents, painters and Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) instructors – all of which have approached the board publicly to request salary increases or additional personnel throughout the recent budget hearings.

At a regular meeting Oct. 27, Robin Williams, who teaches CDL courses for the system’s employees, asked the board to reconsider increasing he and his colleague’s compensation.

“It’s only two of us now, and we’re doing the job of four people. That includes the training, the exercises and all the clerical work,” Williams said. “There are a thousand people that come through the class every year – all the teachers, all the coaches, administrators and the mechanics – we have to train them when they get their CDLs renewed.”  

However, like the administrative secretaries and painters, the CDL instructors did not receive a salary increase this year.

The entry-level salary remains $26,887 for CDL instructors, $36,588 for painters and $33,990 for the secretaries of the system’s assistant superintendents, which is nearly $8,000 less than the first salary step for “executive secretaries.”

Danny Goodwin, an Alabama Education Association representative for MCPSS personnel, brought up the lack of those requested increases during last week’s regularly-schedule meeting.

“I know there’s always someone asking for more, but I do think there are some areas that weren’t touched that have made some very logical appeals to the board,” Goodwin said. “We hope you’ll continue to look at those.”

Despite his concerns, Goodwin thanked the board for the raises that were included in this year’s salary schedule, including the starting salary for welders and several categories of carpenters.

One of the more noticeable changes in the salary schedule deals with the listing of “open” salaries, which were previously defined as “not (to) exceed the base amount paid to the Superintendent and (no) less than the highest base salary of an executive director already employed in the system.”

Assistant superintendents, deputy superintendents, the information technology service executive, operations managers, facilities and maintenance managers, the superintendent and the chief financial officer were all listed as “open” on the 2013-2014 salary schedule.

Following last week’s meeting, Peek said “open” salaries applied to around 10 positions in total adding “leadership positions like the executive managers and directors and the chief academic officer” to the list.

According to Peek, those positions now have an “actual salary” stated in the schedule.

“I think it’s good that all employees are on the salary schedule,” Goodwin told the board last week. “Everyone should be on steps. There shouldn’t be individuals out there in the ether.”

In 2014, only the positions of superintendent and chief financial officer are listed with an “open” salary – both of which are contracted with the board and have negotiable salaries.

Peek said the change came after years of requests from the board to have salaries inserted into those “open” positions.

“In the past when we’ve gotten ready to present the (salary schedule), the board has had questions,” Peek said. “We’re just tweaking it to make sure everything is clear and transparent by getting it into a language that everybody can understand.”