Some Morgan County school system employees could make more money working at fast food restaurants than working as paraprofessionals, bus drivers, or cafeteria aids.
One local woman is petitioning the Morgan County Board of Education (BOE) to advocate for higher salaries for the school system’s classified positions, arguing that the current pay scale is an unlivable wage.
Dr. Claudia Crenshaw, a psychiatric nurse practitioner who lives in Buckhead, appeared before the BOE on Monday evening to make the case that certain school system employees are paid too little and are in dire need of a raise.
“The starting salary for a paraprofessional is just $9.14 an hour,” said Crenshaw. “Arby’s has a sign offering new employees $13 per hour.”
Crenshaw also noted that fast food restaurants like Wendy’s and McDonalds pay higher hourly wages, up to $15 per hour, than what is being offered to paraprofessionals and other school system employees for classified positions.
“Anyone who works in the school system is an important part of our community and the pay should reflect that,” said Crenshaw to the BOE. “I don’t think the county residents have any idea that these are the types of salaries we are offering to our classified people...I wanted to be the person banging the drum to help get the word out about this.”
In an interview with the Morgan County Citizen, Crenshaw said she would like to see the starting salaries for classified positions increase by 50 percent.
“I’d like to see at least $15 per hour,” said Crenshaw. “There are people who want to work in our school system and live in our community but cannot afford to work here or live here. It’s just not right.”
Crenshaw noted the paraprofessionals, who serve as educational aids in the classroom, have the lowest starting salaries of all classified positions in the school system.
“It’s not a livable wage for someone with the responsibility that a paraprofessional has to the children and families and professionals in Morgan County,” said Crenshaw in a letter to the BOE. “I have enclosed the classified salary schedule and also the job description for a paraprofessional, the only position on the classified salary scale that is equipped to manage a classroom for a teacher when she is out of the room.”
Crenshaw acknowledged that since the BOE approved the new budget during Monday evening’s meeting that salary hikes could not materialize this year, but she was hopeful for action in the future.
“I know the budget is set for the coming academic year, but I would like to ask the board to look at the classified salaries, particularly the paraprofessional, and petition the county commission to budget to pay these employees an equitable salary, so they can afford to continue to live and work here in Morgan County,” said Crenshaw.
“Our county is unique in Georgia in many aspects, including our progressiveness in our history. I love the rural environment and the jewel of Morgan County charter schools. I know that we can advance the salaries and more than anything it may involve education of the citizens of Morgan County because my experience of Morgan County has been always doing the right thing.”
BOE Chairman Andy Ainslie III assigned two board members to research possible future salary increases.
“We appreciate you bringing this before us,” said Ainslie to Crenshaw. “I would task our budget committee [BOE Members Brad Hawk and Dr. Forest Padgett]. We are always looking to make sure we are taking care of our employees. There won’t be anything for this year, but I look to you, for you all to evaluate that.”