UPDATED: Fairfax County School Board approves salary increases

Fairfax County Public Schools (file photo)

(Updated at 11 a.m. on 6/27/2023) The Fairfax County School Board voted 9-1 last night (Monday) to raise member salaries to $48,000 with an additional $2,000 for the board chair, starting Jan. 1, 2024.

Aiming lower than what staff proposed, the raises are comparable to compensation for other paid school boards governing large school systems elsewhere in the country and raises approved in previous years, Mount Vernon District School Board representative Karen Corbett-Sanders said.

At-large member Abrar Omeish opposed the motion, saying that she struggled to support it “from a moral perspective” when “education in general is hurting.” Hunter Mill District representative Melanie Meren and Sully District representative Stella Pekarsky abstained.

The raises will take effect on Jan. 1, 2024. All school board seats will be up for election on Nov. 7.

FCPS staff recommended raising the annual pay for each of the 12 elected school board members to $60,404. An additional $2,000 increase is proposed for the board chair, a position that changes each year.

Prior to the board meeting, School Board Chair Rachna Sizemore-Heizer told FFXnow that the staff proposal “would align future board members’ modest compensation with new starting teacher salaries,” noting that the board has raised its pay just three times in the past 35 years, most recently in 2015.

A new teacher with a bachelor’s degree and a 260-day contract will make $66,177 for fiscal year 2024, which starts July 1, according to FCPS’ salary scales.

“Increasing compensation for future school board members acknowledges the significant time commitment of the work in one of the nation’s largest and most complex school systems and opens the door to public service for Fairfax County residents with diverse backgrounds and experiences who may not be able to consider serving otherwise,” Sizemore-Heizer said.

Like the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors, the school board is required by state law to vote on any member pay raises, which can only be proposed before July 1 of the year of an election.

Fairfax County’s school board last approved raises by a 5-4 vote in April 2015, bumping the salary for each member up from $20,000 to the current $32,000 rate. Virginia lets school boards give their chair an additional increase of up to $2,000, so the chair receives $34,000 right now.

In a summary, FCPS staff highlighted the school board’s various duties as it oversees the largest public school district in Virginia:

School Board members are responsible for developing and setting school division policy, approving the annual budget, hiring the Superintendent, and adjudicating student disciplinary and school division employee appeals. They spend many hours preparing for and attending official meetings, work sessions, committee meetings, public hearings, and other functions – nearly 150 meetings in the 2022-23 school year alone. Additionally, Board members attend school, PTA, and community meetings and events, visit schools, attend required professional development programs, and communicate with students, parents, staff, stakeholders, and other constituents.

The Board of Supervisors approved salaries on March 21 of $123,283 for supervisors and $138,283 for the chairman — slightly lower rates than what county staff had initially proposed. It was the board’s first raise since 2015.

While that vote was preceded by a public hearing with sometimes emotional testimony by residents and county workers, the school board’s vote took place around 1 p.m. without public comment. The Code of Virginia doesn’t appear to require a hearing, only a vote by the school board.

Notably, only three school board members are seeking reelection this year: Karl Frisch (Providence District), Melanie Meren (Hunter Mill) and Mason District representative Ricardy Anderson (Mason).

Sizemore-Heizer, an at-large member, is campaigning for the Braddock District seat after Megan McLaughlin announced in February that she’ll retire when her third and final term ends on Dec. 31.

At-large member Abrar Omeish, Karen Corbett Sanders (Mount Vernon), Tamara Derenak Kaufax (Franconia) and Elaine Tholen (Dranesville) have also opted out of reelection bids.

The other members — Karen Keys-Gamarra (at-large), Laura Jane Cohen (Springfield) and Stella Pekarsky (Sully) — are running for General Assembly seats. All of them won the Democratic primary for their respective races last Tuesday (June 20).