There was no favoritism by me, Superintendent Sheila Mitchell, or any other district staff member when creating the 2022-23 salary schedule, as stated by school board member Peggy Peach in her letter to the editor of The Anderson News dated June 15.

The past several years the school board finance staff has reviewed a classified employee staffing category in comparison to the surrounding counties’ salaries to ensure our classified employees’ salaries are competitive. The last three or so years, the classified categories that have been reviewed and revised, included custodians, maintenance, instructional assistants, transportation, food service and daycare staff.

This year, the categories reviewed were secretarial and school district finance office staff, which had not been reviewed in the past. Those categories received an additional increase on the hour plus the recommendation for all certified and classified employees. This is the process for revising classified categories each year.

The recommendation to the board was for all school district employees to receive a 3% plus a step salary increase including the secretary to the superintendent, who also receives a stipend for extra job duties including additional time worked, duties as treasurer and working board meeting nights.

The superintendent’s secretary, evidenced through an approved salary schedule and finance documents since 1994, has been granted years of classified experience plus a 20%-25% stipend for extra duties, time and to serve as board treasurer.

The current secretary to the superintendent was hired in 2018 and came with 30 years of experience, which is at the end of the salary schedule. The former secretary to the superintendent retired with 27-plus years of experience. Both at the end of the salary schedule with no opportunity for any further step increases like most other employees.

The current secretary to the superintendent was placed on the salary schedule with credit for years of experience, but was only given a 15% stipend instead of the full 20%-25% that was board approved since 1994 in order to increase the stipend within the existing board-approved amount as administrative secretarial experience was gained.

An additional 3% was requested and granted to be given to the superintendent’s secretary like it was for all employees, and for the additional stipend for serving as treasurer as well as the extra job duties. This was granted after five years of experience to increase from the existing 15% stipend to be an 18% stipend, still not reaching the full 25% stipend that is on the board approved salary schedule.

No favoritism was given. In fact, in order to provide fairness for lack of secretarial experience in an administrative assistant role in 2018, 5%-10% of the original 20%-25% stipend was withheld when the employee was first hired in 2018.

As superintendent, I did not have to inform the board or make a request regarding this stipend, since the full 25% is already allowed by the existing salary schedule. Instead, I was providing information to the board members to ensure transparency. All of this was explained and shows that I exercised my discretion specifically to avoid even the appearance of favoritism.

During the board meeting Mrs. Peggy Peach voted no to the 3% plus step increase, stating she wanted a special called meeting to review the Family Resource Center workers’ salary schedule to be revisited, indicating the state department had given a 15% salary increase to state workers and to “possibly give a little more.”

I followed up with the board members, letting them know the FRC directors’ salary schedule had been reviewed in 2019 and FRC directors with degrees were given an additional $2,000 for each of their degrees for their salary.

FRC directors’ salary schedule had been revisited before the secretarial and finance office staff salary schedules and additional money for their (FRC directors) degrees was a priority when approving the salary schedule to be competitive with state salary workers.

Mrs. Peach has a relative that works for the school district as an FRC director, so I understand why she wanted that salary schedule revisited. I’m not accusing her of showing favoritism by raising the issue of the FRC directors’ salary schedule, but she raised this topic in direct response to the secretarial/finance office staff getting reviewed for increase this year, even though their categories had not been reviewed for years.

Mrs. Peach only questioned why one secretary, the one with the most job duties, got an 18% stipend and why she received the 3% on that extra job duties. The answer is that it was already approved on the salary schedule previously and I was giving 3 additional percentage points on the stipend due to the gain of five years of secretarial/treasurer experience.

This move from 15% to 18% could have already been given any time since 2018. If other categories were reviewed again before the secretary and finance categories were reviewed the first time, it would not have been fair to those employees. It is simply false to say that this employee received “an 18% raise” as a result of the new salary schedule.

Because of the concern being raised during the meeting, I reviewed the concern of Mrs. Peach with the school board attorney, who stated, “If you wanted to show favoritism, you could have just given the full stipend already allowed by the salary schedule without ever bringing it to the board. This looks like an effort to avoid any claim of favoritism by putting all the cards on the table for the Board and public to view.” He indicated no favoritism was shown, in fact, it was the opposite.

The process to approve the Anderson County School salary schedules has been the same for many years in this district, this year’s process was no different. The finance officer, superintendent and board members were all present at the meeting and the board always approves the salary schedule at the regularly scheduled May board meeting to allow staff to know their salary prior to the end of the school year.

Sheila Mitchell serves as superintendent for Anderson County Schools.