Education Commissioner Dr. Rita A. Sablan said Friday that the school system’s support staffers will soon see an adjustment in their wages, with the implementation of a salary hike starting Oct. 1, the start of fiscal year 2014.
Under the newly signed budget law, Public Law 18-18, the Public School System was appropriated $33 million for its personnel and operation, and includes the requested salary adjustment for support employees.
Support staffers include trades and maintenance workers, school aides, administrative secretaries and assistants, school drivers and conductors, among others.
Sablan estimated Friday that over 200 personnel will benefit from the salary hike.
The Board of Education’s fiscal and personnel affairs committee headed by Herman T. Guerrero endorsed Friday the salary increases to the full board.
“These are individuals who are earning less than the federal minimum wage [$7.50 an hour],” said Sablan, who added that despite recent passage of a bill that delays the minimum wage hike in the CNMI, PSS will go ahead with the salary adjustment its employees have been waiting for.
Sablan described this salary hike for support staff as a “definite plan” that is expected to be adopted by the full board at its next meeting.
When asked the percentage of the planned salary adjustment, Sablan disclosed that whatever the “difference” in their existing salary from the proposed $7.50 per hour rate, that would be the basis of the individual adjustment.
PSS will also hire additional teachers under the fiscal year 2014 budget. There were about a hundred positions that were not funded during the 2013 budget, resulting in a high student ratio due to a shortage of classroom teachers.
Sablan revealed that as of this week, 51 employment contracts have been processed, mostly for teachers. These are “replacements” for teachers who resigned and retired at the end of last school year and during the summer. Salaries for these replacements are still included in the fiscal year 2013 budget, she explained.
As of last week, PSS had about 387 classroom teachers, a number that Sablan said is still not enough to bring down the high students-to-teacher ratio in many large schools.
She expects the teachers’ population to increase next month as PSS has been approved additional FTEs for teachers. She could not immediately state the number of teachers PSS will hire but said the PSS financial management team will meet and plan for the final numbers.
Board of Education chair Herman T. Guerrero pointed out Friday that the continued need for classroom teachers would remain a challenge for PSS. Despite the new FTEs approved for 2014 for PSS, he said these are not enough to cover the needs of all schools.
PSS closed last school year with 10,486 students. Guerrero said he is projecting a similar or slight difference when final enrollment data come in by next week.