PB school board approves teacher raises

The Pine Bluff School Board on Tuesday night unanimously approved a 1.5-percent salary increase for the district’s teachers.

The raise for certified personnel was recommended by Superintendent Linda Watson, who said she wished the increase could be bigger.

“But it’s a start,” she added.

Watson pledged at last month’s school board meeting to seek avenues to obtain raises for teachers, but asked for their patience as she initiated the effort. Watson — in her first full academic year as permanent superintendent — had also bemoaned the lack of pay hikes for up to 10 years among some teachers, and noted that the district’s steadily declining enrollment in recent years had contributed to the problem.

Certified personnel who were already compensated above their pay schedule will maintain their current salaries, Watson said.

“This has been a long time coming,” board member Phyllis Wilkins said of the salary boost. “This board is unified in appreciating district employees.”

“We want our teachers to know we appreciate them and all that they do,” said board President Piccola Washington.

Pine Bluff Education Association Chairwoman Slyvia Grady addressed Watson and the board, saying, “On behalf of the teachers, thank you for approving our raises.

Grady had said at the panel’s November session that the district needed to enhance teacher salaries to attract new, quality instructors and to indicate to present faculty members that they are valued.

Watson said she’s reviewing salary inequities among classified employees in an effort to formulate pay raise proposals for that group.

In other business, the board renewed a contract with Simplex Service for fire alarm, sprinkler and sound and communications testing and inspection. Two district technology service contracts were approved, one for electronic board meeting features and the other for wire access and infrastructure upgrades.

The 34th Avenue Elementary School Choir, under the direction of Alycia Wyley, entertained by performing several Christmas songs.