Teachers Moonlight to Feed Families

Cape Charles Wave

February 16, 2015

With temperatures dipping into the low 30s, and with whipping winds over 40 knots,  many folks still braved the harsh elements to attend the February 10 Regular Meeting of the Northampton Board of Supervisors.  The room was close to capacity, with the entire back section filled with educators and others that support the mission of our county schools. This evening would introduce the year’s budget request from all aspects of county government; those who came to support schools were there to send a message to the Board. Most were wearing translucent blue ribbons, meant to symbolize unity and support for our teachers, as well as invoking a message of transparency in the coming budget process.

During the citizen information period, Occohonack math teacher Justin Wheeler (also Northampton president of local NEA), passionately addressed the BOS, saying that even as teachers work in a field that will have the most impact socially and fiscally (work that many consider the most vital to the County’s future), they are hardly compensated in a way that matches their contributions.

Wheeler freely offered his own pay stub, and ran down his monthly expenses. After tallying them up, his budget was not balanced. In order to make ends meet, he has to work a second job (most teachers find themselves in the same position).

Wheeler went on to say, “Even as our workload is up, a testament to our dedication is that our schools in Northampton are now accredited.”

Leslie James, 4th and 5th grade science teacher at Occohonack, pleaded with the Board to hire another science teacher, which would relieve some of the pressure caused by teaching to the SOLs, and would allow them to truly focus on the subject matter.

Etta Robbins, a 40 year veteran of our schools, requested that the BOS do what they can to replace the high school and the middle school. “We can’t compete with other areas like Northern Virginia and Virginia Beach” until we upgrade our facilities. She, like most educators in the room, also urged the board to raise teacher salaries: “We need to find a way to keep our teachers here. Just last year, we lost four of our best teachers.”

Discussion then turned to the proposed county zoning, and a critique of the county’s “Citizen Information Paper.” Ken Dufty of Exmore attacked the paper, saying, “It fails miserably” in helping citizens really understand what the intentions of the new zoning really are, and in fact, “misleads and misinforms.”  Dufty took issue with the proposed uses and the way they were portrayed in the paper. Even as the paper listed more innocuous uses, such as “art studios, kennels, schools,” a closer look at the actual “Draft Proposal” document revealed things such as “prisons, dredge spoil sites, mining excavation sources,” which Dufty called “a blatant attempt to mislead.”  Dufty also criticized the removal of the Town Edge District, stating that once most of the Town Edge went back to agriculture, it would open the county up to a number of invasive uses (that he mentioned above).


Dr. Art Schwarzchild of Willis Wharf called out the author of the paper as either willfully attempting to misrepresent the facts, or as “just incompetent.” Reading from the Eastern Shore News, he noted that Accomack had recently decided to do away with PUD zones — yet Northampton, via the proposed zoning, was poised to add many to the existing map. He questioned how this, as well as encouraging more development along the waterfront, could possibly be occurring at the same time the county was in the process of updating its hazard mitigation plan.

Mary Miller then addressed the Board, saying that the Information Paper states there will be very little density increase, especially along waterfront village, yet, after closer inspection, the re-zoning may in fact double density as there may be up to four dwellings now crammed into existing parcels by right.

The danger Ms. Miller alluded to may be related to the Virginia Proffer system. Currently under Virginia law towns and counties may not impose conditions on a rezoning. On the other hand, the rezoning applicant may “proffer” (offer) alternative conditions, usually in the form of a plan, and the local governing body may incorporate the conditions into the rezoning. Given the amount of development poised to take place around Oyster and Willis Wharf, the tandem of new zoning and proffers could pose an issue for those in favor of less invasive environmental activity, as well as less density along the water.

The majority of the meeting was dominated by Finance Director Leslie Lewis, whose presentation to the BOS for this year’s budget requests was at times brilliant, other times tedious as she pushed through stacks of data, charts and tables. Ms. Lewis warned the supervisors that the list of requests created an unbalanced budget scenario, with more money going out than is projected to come in. She also warned they need to be wary about arbitrarily increasing funds in any one area, as this may just be robbing Peter to pay Paul (those funds would have to be made up somewhere).

Supervisor Granville Hogg addressed the board, expressing worries that there was too much dependency on revenue from traffic fines. Administrator Katie Nunez agreed in point, but cautioned that any of the revenue streams that they use for projections could also underperform. Ms. Lewis, at the request of Supervisor Hogg, agreed to put the data online. It can be found on the Finance page of the county’s website ( us/departments/finance.html).

According to the Administrator’s Bi-Monthly report, Cape Charles has reiterated its request for a Town Entrance Overlay District. Unfortunately, an applicant must either be the property owner, the County Planning Commission, or the Board of Supervisors. Given the Town’s misunderstanding (Cape Charles is not the property owner) of the matter, either the BOS or Planning Commission must now apply for them. The decision on whether the BOS will become the applicant and eventual approver was put off until a later date.

The Board unanimously approved an ordinance amending Chapter 95 of the Northampton County code banning the keeping of hybrid canines. There was no discussion of exactly what constitutes a hybrid canine. Many German Shepherds are bred with wolves, as are Malamutes, and thus are considered a “hybrid.”  Whether or not any person in possession of a coyote/dingo/ chihuahua mix is required to turn themselves in to authorities was not discussed.

In an interesting turn of events, Supervisor Hogg urged the Board to rescind last month’s vote approving the special use permit for drain fields at the Kiptopeke condominium project.  Brandishing Robert’s Rules of Order, Hogg said “we have made an error in issuing the special use permit.” Hogg’s dilemma stems from what many in the opposition have been saying all along — that the two giant underground gas tanks (the property used to be a gas station) pose an environmental threat, especially if disturbed during construction.  The DEQ apparently feels the same way, and is addressing the issue. Supervisor Trala replied, “I also had concerns about this,” but was assured that it was not a critical problem. Administrator Nunez responded that despite what the DEQ determines, the BOS was not obligated to make any changes.

The Board unanimously approved the sale of several Eastville properties to  Eastville developer Eyre Baldwin, including the old Social Services Building, the Voter Registration building, the Thrift Store, and parking lot. The only limitation was keeping wastewater usage to less than 4,000 gallons per month.

Supervisor Hubbard closed the meeting by requesting that the county pen a letter of appreciation to Broadwater Latin teacher Eric Hack for his brilliant performance on the game show Jeopardy!, and for doing such a great job representing Northampton County.



Teachers Moonlight to Feed Families”

  1. Spencer Murray on February 16th, 2015 9:46 am

    Good coverage. Of note also was Supervisor LeMond’s motion to return to the 2014 version of the Board Member Manual. Other supervisors agreed as the motion passed unanimously. Wise move I believe. Thanks to Larry.

  2. Kearn Schemm on February 16th, 2015 10:02 am

    How much do the teachers actually make? I have spoken to some that seem to be doing OK. It would be of value to have figures mentioned. If you have them, please post.

  3. Etta Robins on February 16th, 2015 12:54 pm

    I really don’t know who these teachers are that Kearn Schemm has been talking to. They certainly don’t work with me at Kiptopeke. They aren’t my colleagues who like myself moonlight at Aqua, The Shanty, Sting-Ray’s, or Arts Enter, just to name a few. They are my teacher friend and her husband who have moved in with another teacher in order to pay their bills. They are definitely not the teachers who must work summer school in order to make ends meet. Oh, I forgot to mention my teacher friend who is living in one room this winter because the budget just doesn’t cover fuel oil and/or propane.
    I am sure that my colleagues would be glad to share their pay check stubs with him as well so he can see how expensive health insurance is. Our net pay looks low but our take home pay is ridiculously much lower for many of us who owe student loans for advanced degrees.
    Schools today aren’t 9-3 with 3 months off. Actually, I just took a break from grading tests, entering grades in my online grade book, writing lesson plans, completing CST paperwork, and organizing book club order forms on my Presidents’ Day holiday. Teachers have little planning time and work most evenings to complete the required paperwork. So now that I have spoken my mind, please email me the names of those teachers who are doing well because I want to know where they teach. ACTUALLY, KIPTOPEKE ELEMENTARY IS A GREAT PLACE TO WORK WITH GREAT KIDS, SUPPORTIVE PARENTS, AND AWESOME ADMINISTRATION. The problem is not our job responsibilities, it’s the stress that accompanies the low pay that we receive to pay high rents, astronomical health insurance premiums, and excessive student loans, with no way to save any more for our own children’s college expenses.

  4. Etta Robins on February 16th, 2015 1:32 pm

    Sorry, I got so caught up in my rant that I forgot to thank Wayne Creed for an excellent job of reporting for the Wave.

  5. Justin Wheeler on February 16th, 2015 2:11 pm

    Reaction to Kearn Schemm:

    My name is Justin Wheeler. Here is an except from my BoS speech with exact figures. I have a feeling that most of the teachers you may talk to have a significant other who is able to provide for them and teaching is used as secondary source of income.

    Here is the attached table that was given to the BoS. I cannot figure out how to post the circle graph:

    Teacher Expense List per Month (Avg. & Approx)
    Paycheck (before Health Care and deductions): $2925.38

    Paycheck (take home): $1846.60
    Rent (av.) $750
    Electric/Heat $175
    Groceries $150
    Phone Bill $70
    Car Payment $310
    Student Loan $256.56
    Internet/Tv $100
    Gas for vehicle $80
    Personal Savings: $0
    Total Est. Av. Expenses approx. $1891.50

    This is a difference of $40 per week going out of my pocket. This is the average single teacher with a Masters degree in the district. Approximately half of the teachers don’t have a Master’s degree though and are making even less. I hope this sheds some light for you and for others when it comes to the current situation for the majority of teachers in the county.

  6. David Boyd on February 21st, 2015 12:44 pm

    We really need to pay our teachers more. The school system in Northampton County has been in crisis mode for years. Many things may be debatable for receiving funding, even in the school system, but I don’t think teachers’ salaries are one of them. If we can’t retain the best teachers we’ve got, any other funding of the school system is for naught. Our teachers’ salaries aren’t high enough to attract good teachers from elsewhere, so we better make sure we hang on to the good ones we’ve got. That’s our best chance at turning our school system into an award winning one again.

  7. Bo Gunter on March 13th, 2015 2:25 pm

    I am quite sure these teachers knew what they were getting paid before they accepted the job.