BY KARISSA MILLER

Iredell-Statesville Schools and other public school districts across North Carolina have struggled during the past few years to adequately staff school bus drivers and teacher assistant positions, according to Superintendent Jeff James.

Last year, the N.C. General Assembly took a step to address this issue by giving classified employees, which include bus drivers, teacher assistants, school nutrition staff and custodians, a 2.5 percent salary increase.

During Monday’s school board meeting, I-SS Chief Finance Officer Adam Steele detailed what I-SS is doing to improve classified employee pay in the local budget.

I-SS has approved a plan to accelerate pay increases for classified employees.

“A lot of districts pulled back from step increase in 2008 and 2009. To be able to offer a step increase, that’s huge,” Steele said. “It’s something we will continue to do.”

The I-SS school board also voted to approve increase the classified supplement from 4.85 percent to 5.35 percent.

“The district I came from, we didn’t provide a classified supplement,” Steele said, noting that Catawba County’s supplement is currently 3 percent.

Non-teaching positions, teachers and school administrator positions in N.C. school districts are employed by local boards of education, but are paid on a state salary schedule.

In addition to the state salary, a local supplement may be provided by the school district to increase salaries.

Bus drivers, school nutrition and Primetime staff also received increases to base step wages last year based on the challenges of filling those positions.

State Budget Highlights

The school board also heard an update about proposed state pay increases for the 2022-2023 school year.

According to Steele, the N.C. budget includes an average 4 percent across-the-board increase. He said that teacher raises, include a salary increase plus a step increase, but the total raise will be based on years of experience.

Classified employees, which includes bus drivers, custodians, teacher assistant and school nutrition staff, will move from a minimum wage of $13 an hour to $15 an hour.

Steele told the board that another area of focus for the finance and human resources team is looking at how to address pay inequities that may result in the salary schedule due to some of the proposed changes.

“It’s not something that can be done all at one time, but it is something that we are going to address,” Steele said.

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