This story was originally printed in the October 13, 2016 edition of the Pickens Progress. This article has been referenced several times publicly, most recently at a Pickens Seniors for Change meeting and in a Letter to the Editor, which cited it as being inaccurate. We stand by the original story and are reposting it exactly as it was printed.
At a recent meeting of the Pickens County Board of Education, Superintendent Dr. Lula Mae Perry referenced an article published in the AJC back in August titled “Teacher Pay in Georgia: Which Georgia school system pays teachers most?” The article ranked Pickens
with the ninth highest paid teachers in the state, on aver- age.
Dr. Perry and the board appeared pleased with the ranking and expressed their support for teachers. The Progress followed up with a few questions to find out a little more about why teachers here make about $4,000 more annually than the state average of $54,750, and to learn how teacher pay is calculated.
Buford City has the highest paid teachers with an av- erage salary of $64,636. The Quitman County system has the lowest paid teachers at $46,103.
In a brief telephone interview a few weeks after the board meeting, Pickens Schools Chief Finance Offi- cer Amy Smith said the figures reported in the AJC do not match any of their re-
“One of our reports comes
close, but none are an exact match,” she said.
The following are questions submitted to the school system regarding teacher pay and their responses:
Q. AJC reported Pickens' average teacher pay is $58,476.06 based on the Certified Contract Salary Field's Certified Personnel Index. Does that figure include ben- efits (health insurance, etc.) or bonuses? The number is said to include "supplements." What is included in supplements?
A. We cannot answer on behalf of the writer for the AJC – we do not know exactly what CPI report was referenced in their article.
[Note: In an email from the AJC to the Pickens school system [that was supplied to the Progress by the schools], which requested information about where the publication obtained their numbers, AJC content producer Fiza Pirani said the “Annual Contracted Salary for Certified Employees is the salary amount including all supplements in dollars and cents;” that it is based on figures from the Georgia Department of Education; and that it only includes teacher salaries, not certified staff. “Supplements” include across-the-board local supplements, additional compensation for certain po- sitions such as coaches and other factors.]
Q. Does the state mandate starting pay of teachers? Does the state mandate all pay of teachers based on ex- perience, degree certifications held and position, or does the school board/superintendent have the authority to change teachers' pay rate?
A. The state has a state base teacher pay schedule, based on certification level and years of experience. The Pickens County School District (PCSD) adopted the state base schedule for FY17. In addition, the district ap- proved an additional 10% local supplement for teachers This 10% local supplement payment has been in place since FY03. The number of
days worked by teaching staff can also affect annual salary. The PCSD maintains a 190-day calendar for teachers. Other systems may have different calendars.
Q. Can teachers be given raises based on merit/performance? Can bonuses be given based on merit/performance?
A. The PCSD must comply with local school board policy and approved salary schedules.
Q. Can teachers be given raises based on student achievement?
A. PCSD must comply with local school board policy and approved salary schedules.
[Note: In a follow-up question, the Progress asked if school board policy allows for raises based on merit, per- formance or student achieve- ment but it was not answered before presstime.]
Q. If all salaries are based on mandated pay scale increases this would mean the Pickens School System employs teachers that have longer tenure and more certification, correct? It would mean there wasn't necessarily any decision made by the school board or superintendent to compensate teachers at a higher rate than other sys- tems?
A. Again, for FY17, the PCSD chose to compensate teachers based on the state base teacher pay schedule (based on certification level and years of experience) plus the 10% local supplement (maintained since FY03). During the budget process our research of similar district’s supplements for FY16 were as follows:
• Dawson – 10% • Gilmer – 8%
• Gordon – 7%
• Murray – 6.5% •White–6%
• Union – 4% (0-19 years of service), 7% (20+ years of service)
• Lumpkin – 5%
• Fannin – 5%
The following is a break- down of PCSD’s certification level and experience (which affects salary level):
• Approximately 26% of certified staff is on the top step 21+ (years of service) or more.
• 47% are on step 11 through 20 (years of service)
• 27% are step 0 through 10 (years of service)
Staff certification levels:
• Approximately 24% of PCSD’s certified staff holds bachelor’s degrees
• 36% earned Master’s certification
• 36.5% have Specialist certification
• 3.5% earned doctorates
Q. Do teachers get cost of living pay raises each year? If so, how much?
A. There is no set cost of living raise each year. However, the PCSD Board of Education approved a one- time 3% payment to all employees, to be paid November, 2016. The state has not increased the state base certified schedule since FY09.