Salaries, new principals and Cory Uselton’s status as DeSoto County Schools superintendent all were topics of discussion as the district’s Board of Education met in Hernando.
District teachers, their assistants and other hourly employees will receive more money in their paychecks with the new school year.
Teachers will receive a $1,000 increase to the district salary supplement for the upcoming school year. Teachers and their assistants will also receive a “step-up” raise each year through the state teacher scale, but this money will be in addition to the yearly incremental raise.
The board’s action also approved pay increases for teacher assistants and other hourly district employees next school year.
“Our school board members have been looking at this for the past several months,” Uselton said. “The timing of this (done just before Teacher Appreciation Week, which is May 6-12) is meant to show our appreciation and to honor our teachers and thank them and their teacher assistants for all of their hard work.”
School officials explained the raises are being initiated through savings and spending cuts accomplished since Uselton took office. These raises will be part of the school district budget the board will vote on in June.
About $4 million in additional expenses will come with the increases, but board members did not anticipate any millage increase requests as part of the upcoming budget.
“As a school board, we all want to give our teachers and staff as much compensation as possible,” said Board President Sheila Riley in a statement. “Our superintendent and school board members have worked very hard over the last three years to cut spending at the district level so more money could go to our teachers, teacher assistants and staff.”
Many of those teachers and staff members will be working with new building principals when the new school year begins July 1. Five new hires at the school leadership level have been announced.
The new principals are Sherry Anderson at Lewisburg Elementary School, Erica Armstrong at Walls Elementary, Aisha Maxwell at Overpark Elementary, Carrie Speck at Horn Lake Intermediate, and Jennifer Stripling at Southaven Intermediate School.
All five are moving from previous positions within DeSoto County Schools.
Anderson replaces Amanda Samples, who is the new Executive Director of Elementary Education. Armstrong takes over for Elisa Goss, who will now direct Special Education for the district. Maxwell replaces the retiring Lisa Love at Overpark Elementary. Speck replaces Rosie King, the new principal at Olive Branch Intermediate School for the new school year. Stripling will take over for Kenneth McKinney, who is becoming the new principal at Hope Sullivan Elementary School.
“We had 37 current DeSoto County Schools administrators who applied for five principal positions and the interview committee did an outstanding job of evaluating the applicants,” Uselton said.
Uselton’s position as district superintendent was also further explained by the school board. The elected leader of Mississippi’s largest public school district was recently appointed to continue in that position after his elected term ends.
The 2016 Mississippi Legislature eliminated school superintendent elections and now requires local school boards to appoint their district leaders.
Seeing the possibility of what was termed “distractions” during the upcoming school year as Uselton’s elected term was ending, district members determined it needed to act to ensure stability at the top leadership position.
Board members earlier voted to appoint Uselton to remain as superintendent, thus eliminating questions about his job status moving forward.
“Our board members wanted to take care of this matter in advance so the primary focus can remain on our students and teachers,” Riley said. “Our board members feel that it is important to honor the commitment that the voters made in electing Uselton in 2015.”
“I am thankful for the people of DeSoto County for electing me as superintendent in 2015,” Uselton said. “I am thankful that the school board members have placed their trust in me to lead our school district as the appointed superintendent.”
Bob Bakken is Staff Writer and may be reached at 662-429-6397 ext. 240.