VINTON, Ohio — Following contract negotiations for the Vinton County educators in June, the school district is witnessing a monumental resignation rate as teachers seek higher wages.
What is going on?
Earlier this summer, the Vinton Local Teachers Association (VLTA) organized a campaign to fight for an increase in pay amid the current inflation that the country is undergoing.
According to VLTA, at the end of the district’s 2021 fiscal year, there was a total of $23 million in reserve, which they claim is three times the recommended amount for the school’s yearly budget by the Ohio Department of Education, meaning the district has the money to competitively pay their teachers. Additionally, as confirmed by public records, the teachers have only received a 19.5% total salary raise in the past nine years. Those numbers are compared to the Superintendent’s own 40% raise from 2015 to 2025, having received 25% in 2015, and the Treasurer’s expected raise of 25.1% raise from 2019 to 2025, having received 7.6% in 2019.
“This is extremely disappointing for VLTA members who have dedicated their lives and careers to serving the students of this district,” stated VLTA spokesperson and 32-year employee of Vinton County Schools, Michele Royster in May. “Coming to a fair deal in these contract negotiations is imperative if we want to attract and keep high quality, experienced educators in the classroom with our kids. The district must invest in its workforce. Vinton County students are worth it.”
The Teachers Association estimated that the school board “added [$900,000] to their coffers” per year, which they found could mean $10,000 raises for each teacher in the district.
Despite their rallying for improvement, the teachers of Vinton County ratified a tentative agreement, resulting in the Vinton teachers being paid less than educators in surrounding districts. As a result of the letdown, some teachers left and VTLA said Vinton County has to fill 10 teaching positions.
“At one point, we had that many unfilled due to resignations and then the shuffling of current staff,” the association released in a statement. “With the school board meeting at the end of this month, we certainly hope all positions will be filled…we won’t know until the school board meeting which positions will be filled or which positions will still need to be filled.”
When asked for an approximation of the salary of a teacher at Vinton County Schools, VLTA admitted that they cannot comment on that while current negotiations with the district for a new contract are taking place. However, they did state that there are numerous public sources available for use. Upon hearing this, the Guardian took it upon ourselves to determine the average income for a teacher in the surrounding counties with the most recent data available in 2019.
According to sources when compared to six of the local school districts, including Vinton, it was determined that not only is Vinton County’s average salary for a teacher lower than certain surrounding districts, but southern Ohio’s mean income for a teacher is much lower nationally. When compared to the school districts of Chillicothe, Athens, Oak Hill, Jackson, and Wellston, it was determined that Vinton is actually the third-lowest paid of the six, just above Jackson and Wellston. Additionally, the data shows that when compared to other schools in the country, Vinton’s pay rate is 10.8 percent lower.
The responses from staff.
Numerous teachers spoke out against the ruling, expressing outrage and melancholy for the future of teachers and students. Many teachers have already resigned or plan to, and took to social media to make their voices known.
Former teacher of the Vinton County School District, Barbie Cochran, empathized with her old co-workers on this loss. Cochran explained how if she were to have remained in the district, then she would have had to have waited three years for what she is making at her current job.
“I am one of the teachers that resigned from Vinton County, and I have officially accepted a new position at another school district,” stated the former Vinton teacher. “I’m still disappointed in this outcome. I had a major increase in pay (in my opinion), and it would take at least three additional years at Vinton County to make what I’ve been offered now at my current school. Good luck to the Vikings teachers, and I hope you guys have a fantastic year! Keep fighting for fairness because Vinton County Schools is not beneath other local school districts and should be treated as one of the top school districts that includes the same pay.”
A Central Elementary educator and VTLA member, Teresa Doughty, gave her opinion on the matter, finding the decision to have been difficult, but ultimately feeling concern for the staff.
“Tough decisions were made today. The community needs to know that with this tentative agreement, [Vinton County] teachers will continue to be paid below surrounding districts.”
Jennifer Wells, who teaches at the middle school, chimed in, fearing how many of her colleagues may leave as a result of the agreement, stating, “Yes, we will still be on the bottom of the pay scale for surrounding districts – so it will be no surprise to me if more teachers leave.”
The responses from the school.
Currently, no statements have been issued by Vinton County Schools or the school board. The Guardian reached out to Superintendent Rick Brooks’ office and other school offices for a comment, but no response was received.
However, Brooks’ receptionist spoke on behalf of the school, claiming that the district only has to fill two positions, not 10, as previously indicated by VTLA. According to the secretary, the mass vacancies were misinformation spread online.
Following the vote, teachers were concerned about their futures. Many feel that they are being mistreated by the school when compared to the rates that educators in surrounding districts are being paid.
However, the VTLA wants to remain optimistic. In a statement issued the day after the recent vote, the organization said, “VLTA will continue to fight for fair pay and more respect. Many of you asked where the $30 million is going if not to adequately support staff and students. From now on we will post the monthly budget reports here, as well as other information that will keep us informed and keep them accountable.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: A previous version of this article mistakenly said the Board of Education voted to ratify a recent contract. In fact, it was the Teacher’s Union. The edit has been made to the story.