Itawamba County Superintendent of Education Trae Wiygul’s decision to refuse a 5% pay increase, and the school board’s decision to accept that refusal, was the right decision.
As reported Managing Editor Teresa Blake, local school board members unanimously approved the superintendent’s decision to turn down the raise they gave him on June 1. The pay bump would have boosted the superintendent’s annual salary by approximately $5,000 to over $101,000.
According to a 2019 report from Mississippi Today, Wiygul’s salary is among the bottom 20% among Mississippi’s 148 superintendents.
Wholly setting aside whether or not Wiygul has earned a pay increase, the timing of the pay bump wasn’t right. In March, the school board voted 3-2 to drop seventh and eighth grade classes at Fairview and Dorsey attendance centers to help compensate for expected budgetary shortfalls in the coming years. That decision was met with a loud outcry from members of those communities.
As school districts across the state and nation prepare to welcome students back to in-person classes amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic – Itawamba County Schools are scheduled to reopen Friday – they will undoubtedly face numerous unexpected expenses, including the cost of personal protective equipment, cleaning and whatever technology upgrades are necessary to accommodate distance learning. With so many unknowns, it would be wise for school district leaders to be even more conservative than usual with taxpayer dollars.
Although Superintendent Wiygul may very well be deserving of a pay increase, which would put his salary more in line with those of other state supervisors, we believe now just isn’t the right time. His decision to refuse that raise was the right one.