SALISBURY, N.C. (QUEEN CITY NEWS) — The Rowan-Salisbury School System is increasing its pay supplement for teachers and its stipend for athletic coaches.

At the Oct. 23 school board meeting, Board Chair Dean Hunter said it’s the first pay increase for coaches in nine years.

“This is exciting for our district for so many reasons. This is long-awaited and long-due,” said RSS Chief Resources Officer Carol Herndon.

The vote, which was approved unanimously, will allocate an eight percent supplement for teachers. Previously, teachers were given a flat-rate supplement based on years of experience.

Members of the Rowan-Salisbury Association of Educators have been asking the board for a supplement increase for more than a year.

Recently, the board took the request to the Rowan County Commission, asking them to fund a ten percent supplement to make their compensation more competitive with surrounding districts.  County commissioners ultimately agreed to an eight percent supplement. They won’t start funding it until next school year.

Teacher Rena Taylor said she’s appreciative of any pay increase but really wishes the county would have considered the board’s original request.

“When I did the calculation, I was like, ‘dang.’ I’m a Year 6 on the scale, and I want to say that’s between two- and three-hundred dollars more,” said Taylor.

Until the county picks up the tab, the district will fund the supplement itself out of its local fund balance. It’ll cost $3.1 million out of their $7.3 million in available funds.

“They’ve approved to pick it up next year, which we are grateful for, but we’re still at eight percent when others have been at 10 percent for three and four years,” said Hunter. “We’re getting there, but we’re still behind.”

Taylor expressed concerns that the lack of competitive compensation could lead to additional staff retention issues.

A state report for the 2021-2022 school year lists Rowan-Salisbury as one of the lower-performing districts. It showed RSS with an attrition rate of 14 percent and a 17.69 percent vacancy rate. They had the fourth-highest teacher vacancy rate in the state.

“We’re still not competitive, and I think we’re going to feel that. I feel like a lot of teachers right now are like, ‘Give me a reason [to stay],’” said Taylor.