News 3 investigates: Superintendent vs. teacher salaries in Hampton Roads public schools

SUFFOLK, Va. - “This is ridiculous,” said one Suffolk parent. “There should be no raise [at the top], if the teachers are not getting a raise.”  Deena Green was just one of many Hampton Roads residents to speak at a recent Suffolk Public School Board Budget Meeting earlier this month.

“It is so disheartening and so hurtful to see what is going on,” Green continued. “It is almost like employee abuse, and I say that from being in management, in corporate.”

The Suffolk School Board is catching a lot of heat for giving their superintendent, Deran Whitney, a $23,000 raise last year. Officials say the raise was given by the school board during Whitney's annual review last September, and many teachers say they had no idea.

Teachers say the raise is a sore reminder many of them are living paycheck to paycheck.

“I have taught for 15 years, and I do not make enough money to support my family,” Jill Donovan, a 2nd grade teacher at Creekside Elementary, told school board members.

Some have argued that $23,000 would not make a dent in the city’s budget crisis.

“Our teachers do not even have money to print paper half of the time,” a senior student at Nansemond River High School told the board.

Even so, teachers and bus drivers say Whitney’s raise hits them where it hurts.

“You need to take care of us,” said Sandra Wright, a Suffolk bus driver for the last eight years. “We take care of the most precious thing we have in our system: our students.”

Inspired by feedback from the community, News 3 investigated all superintendent salaries across Hampton Roads.

Out of 11 districts, we found out every single one of them paid their superintendents six-figures last year.

(See our infographic below to get your superintendent’s salary, broken down by district and cost per student.)

Suffolk school officials say Whitney’s raise was the result of a competitive compensation study, which recommended the board give him a raise so his salary would be more on par with his peers.

However, when you break down the salary by cost per student, the numbers from 2016 show something else.

In Virginia Beach, the superintendent made over $3 per student in 2016. That same data shows the superintendent in Chesapeake earned over $5 per student, and Norfolk’s superintendent made over $7 dollars per student.

In Suffolk, data show Whitney made much more: over $12 per student. With his new raise, that number now goes up to $13 per student.

Meanwhile, the highest paid teachers in Suffolk earned a little more than $3 per student: a $10 difference from their boss.

“You should not be greedy,” Green told the school board, “and this feels like greed.”

The school board is expected to vote on a new budget Tuesday night, which would give teachers at least a one percent raise. However, with more expensive health care costs on the way, many teachers say the raise won’t even cover the new expenditures.