‘We are disappointed:’ HCS under the gun as important salary study delayed

New mental health counselors could make schools safer.
New mental health counselors could make schools safer.

Horry County Schools will have to wait until at least next week before it sees the results of a district-wide comprehensive salary study that was supposed to be complete in January, according to school board member David Cox.

“We are disappointed that it is not ready,” Cox said.

The study comparing Horry County Schools to several other districts in the state cost $170,000 and is being conducted by MGT Consulting, according to district officials.

The extra time has put even more pressure on the district to put together its salary budget for the upcoming school year, even as it makes offers to employees using the existing pay scale.

According to Human Resources Director Mary Anderson, the district thinks it has to fill around 250 to 300 projected certified position vacancies for the next school year and has started making offers to teachers without having the information from the salary study.

Certified positions mostly include teachers but also include positions such as instructional coaches, Anderson said.

The deadline to sign teacher contracts is May, Cox said.

“The longer it takes, the more intensely we’re going to have to crunch numbers to get ready for contracts,” Cox said. “The window’s closing rapidly, that’s why I’m anxious to get it started.”

Anderson said the district has made 84 certified position contract offers and 40 $2,500 teacher signing bonus offers to teachers in critical content areas such as special education, math, science and foreign language.

But it’s unknown whether those contracts would change if the salary study recommends raises.

“That would be up to the board,” Anderson said. “For now, we’re only offering what has been approved.”

School Board Chair Joe DeFeo said he thought the offers could change based on the salary study recommendations, but changing the offers would require more conversations.

Starting salaries for new teaching hires in the district range between $36,010 and $45,585, varying based on their level of education.

District Superintendent Rick Maxey said he wasn’t happy that the study was delayed, but that it might not have an impact on next year’s budget due to the time it could take to implement the study.

“In all probability, any salary study whether it was due in January or not, it would be phased in,” Maxey said. “But that’s just a supposition.”

Regardless of the salary study, Cox said he wanted to give bus drivers a raise, while Maxey advocated for an across-the-board raise for all employees such as cafeteria workers and custodial staff.

"I think we have to look at everybody as a whole," Maxey said. "It’s hard for me to single out one group."

But Cox said that comparing bus drivers (who earn between $12 and $16 an hour and sometimes work split shifts) to the rest of the district's employees was like comparing apples to oranges.

"I’m pretty passionate about bus drivers," Cox said. "They have a hard time. The bus drivers are out there in the streets, on the streets, in the neighborhoods, on the back roads, fighting traffic, fighting road rage, fighting kids who are fighting. The parents sass them, because they’re late, the kids sass them because they’re kids."

But Maxey wanted a more comprehensive look.

"I certainly value the contributions all of our employees make," Maxey said. "We would have to take everybody as a whole."

Christian Boschult, 843-626-0218, @TSN_Christian