VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — A $930 million budget proposal for Virginia Beach City Public Schools (VBCPS) is on its way to city council members for approval.
Earlier this month, school board members stamped their seal of approval.
Plans include revamping the teacher pay scale, improving security, and boosting mental health support.
Elementary school parent Nicole Dunbar referred to heightened concerns over school safety in the wake of the January shooting at Richneck Elementary in Newport News.
"And that's close to here," said Dunbar.
"With the recent incident in Newport News, we've naturally been hearing from a lot of parents and staff who are concerned about safety here in VBCPS," said Superintendent Dr. Aaron Spence during a video message or "deskside chat" to families this month.
Spence assured the community his operating budget proposal for fiscal year '24 prioritizes school safety, along with staff compensation and student support.
For example, he set aside $668,000 to continue funding for 15 additional security assistants in elementary schools.
This year, administrators also began phasing in armed school security officers to support school resource officers in the buildings.
"I think that would be OK with me because you have someone right there when the threat is imminent," Dunbar added.
For Spence, addressing student behavior plays a big part in school safety. Dunbar agreed.
"We've also seen extreme behaviors occurring within younger age groups than ever before," said Spence.
The superintendent seeks to add three more behavior intervention positions. One parent told 13News Now off-camera she would have liked to see even more added.
"These positions work directly with teachers and principals to support students with the most challenging behaviors and these additional positions will allow us to provide more consistent services across our schools," Spence said.
When it comes to staff compensation, the proposed budget adjusts what is called the "instructional experience-based step pay scale," meaning teachers would have a 1.5% bump in salary each time they advance a step.
Kathleen Slinde, president of the Virginia Beach Education Association, said this type of consistency between steps is unprecedented.
"That [consistency] has not happened in the past. It's been a very long, very slow increase which is why we lose people to other districts who are close by and do that at a faster pace," said Slinde. "This new salary structure for '23 to '24 makes increases in salary at those upper levels greater this year, so this is greater incentive to stay."
Slinde called it a move in the right direction.
"We've been neglecting the schoolhouse for a long time. It cannot be made up in one budget season," she said.
Moreover, the budget resolution states the proposal upgrades "pay grade 5" positions, such as bus assistants, cafeteria assistants, custodians, and fleet shop helpers, to "pay grade 7," meaning the hourly wage would reach closer to $15.
"They've got a long way to go to really compete with other places in the region and the state, as well," Slinde added.
Final approval of the budget proposal is now in the hands of the city council. In his deskside chat, Dr. Spence said the budget will be presented to council members next month. They are expected to take a vote in May.