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Stafford members make salary case to Board of Supervisors

“I don’t usually get involved in things like this, especially if they’re controversial,” Tammy Lancaster told the Stafford County Board of Supervisors, her voice breaking, “but I’m so tired of doing without for my own kids. There’s got to be a way to make it work.”

Lancaster, a Stafford Education Association member and a paraprofessional, was one of a host of SEA speakers at a public hearing this week on Stafford’s budget, the latest collective step taken by members from across the county school system.

Already holding a monthly meet-and-confer session with Superintendent Randy Bridges, SEA has become a powerful presence at county governing body meetings. The local’s activism was vital in getting the school board to pass a budget that included funding improvements and employee raises, and SEA is now busy with the next step—getting that budget approved by the Board of Supervisors.

Backed by a crowd of red-shirted members, SEA educators took turns at the podium during the public hearing, letting Supervisors know that county schools, and those who work in them, have some pressing needs.

“On the county’s own website, it says that a world-class school system is a top priority,” said David Vita, SEA’s vice president. “In world-class education systems, teachers earn both higher pay and higher prestige.”

Vita, the county’s 2011 Teacher of the Year, also defended SEA’s deep involvement in the budget process, which has raised some eyebrows. “We’re just a bunch of educators who, in good faith, got involved in discussions about a pay scale similar to ones that many in this room are paid through,” he said, adding that salaries are part of the reason some former Stafford Teachers of the Year have left the county.

SEA member Tammy Torino told the Board that valuing public schools “starts with valuing these people in red,” gesturing to the packed audience.

SEA Past President Jeannette Martin, who’s taught in Stafford schools for 32 years, said that some of her colleagues are retiring earlier than they had planned to. “They no longer feel valued,” she said. “There face more demands, less pay and a lack of respect. Why would someone retire while they still have a passion for teaching? They’re tired of being treated that way.”



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