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Amid budget cuts, School Board grants chief 19% raise

Schools superintendent David L. Jones, left, and School Board chairman Ervin Bazzle at a board meeting. Schools superintendent David L. Jones, left, and School Board chairman Ervin Bazzle at a board meeting.

In their first meeting of the new school year Monday night, members of the Henderson County School Board criticized the state Legislature for budget cuts and then granted the county schools superintendent a 19 percent pay increase.

The hefty raise for schools superintendent David L. Jones came as schoolteachers have expressed frustration over stagnant pay and larger class sizes. In the same meeting, Jones reported that the state's 2013-14 budget for K-12 schools means that the county would be unable to hire 26 teaching assistants.
"We're underfunding education in this state," board chairman Ervin Bazzle said. "We're undervaluing our educators."
Jones told the board that he didn't have specific budget numbers from the state yet but "we do know we had a reduction in teacher assistants (funding) that will not allow us to hire 26 positions. We will also have some cuts in supplies and materials. I know you want to know specific budget numbers and I will provide them as soon as the state office gives them to us."
The board voted 5-1 to offer Jones a three-year contract extension and a pay raise of more than $26,000 — from $140,391 to $166,625 a year.
Bazzle said that the superintendent had not had a raise in three years and deserved one for what he called a fine job of running the district. The pay increase, Bazzle said, would bring Jones's salary to "just below the state average" for superintendents.
"Nobody works harder," board member Lisa Edwards said. "It's time we support him."
"He's worked tirelessly and we're still not going to pay him what he's worth," said Mary Louise Corn. "He's the glue that holds us together."
"We haven't done what we promised Dr. Jones we'd do three years ago," Melissa Maurer said.
Rick Wood and Amy Holt joined Edwards, Corn and Maurer in voting for the contract extension and pay raise.
Josh Houston, the former Henderson County Republican Party treasurer who ran as a reformer, cast the lone no vote. "In this climate, I can't support it," he said.
"I understand," Jones said.

'Straining the system'
Bazzle said teacher pay remains an issue.
"I've heard complaints from residents that there is a lack of recognition of our teachers by the Legislature," he said. "There seems to be a disconnect between our legislators and the quality of our teachers. ...
"We will be fine," he added. "Our school district will be fine, but we can only strain the system for so long before we no longer have the capacity to perform."
"Some of us are upset about what came out of Raleigh," Wood said. "Regardless, we have students to educate. We can wring our hands, we can blame people, or we can join hands for the benefit of our children. We have to be positive and look ahead."
Local resident Linda Miller expressed disappointment with the Legislature's funding of K-12 schools.
"I come to you this evening as a depressed public school advocate who is concerned about all that has been happening in Raleigh to hurt our public schools, students, teachers, staff, and our Henderson County community," she said. "Supporting our schools should not be a partisan issue."
Miller urged like-minded public schools supporters to wear red the first day of school on Aug. 26.
"I hope that not only parents, teachers, students, school leadership and school board members will wear some red, but shopkeepers, carpenters, doctors, secretaries, policemen, firemen and fishermen will wear red the first day of school," she said.