Some school staff come up short on pay raises

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Due to confusing legislation, some Guilford County school employees may actually owe the school district money after being compensated for a raise that they shouldn't have received. Although some of these employees, many of whom are instructional coaches, are paid on the traditional pay scale, the raise passed by the General Assembly only gave them a flat rate $500 raise. Not the percentage increase that teachers received. From the News and Record article,

Not only have they received smaller raises than expected, but some Guilford County Schools employees learned Thursday that they owe the school system money.

Officials say language in the state budget bill raised questions about who qualifies as a teacher. So some employees, who for years were paid under the teacher pay scale, won’t get the larger raises many teachers received.

Instead of getting average raises of about 5 percent — or about 7 percent according to the General Assembly — these employees got $500. That’s the same as raises for central office administrators and classified, or unlicensed, staff members.

The affected employees include about 143 instructional support staff members — generally licensed employees so adept in the classroom they’re now paid to coach teachers.

Most have years of classroom experience. Many have graduate degrees.

School officials say software problems led to some of those employees getting too much retroactive pay to cover the raises the General Assembly approved months ago.

About 75 employees attended a closed-door meeting Thursday with school officials to go over the pay problems. None would discuss the issue after the meeting.

School officials did not allow the News & Record into that 30-minute meeting, saying that state law allows closed discussions with employees. However, individual employees were not discussed during the meeting. Employees were able to talk one-on-one with school system staff once the meeting ended.

The N.C. Association of Educators is aware of the salary issues in Guilford County, said Mark Jewell, the organization’s vice president. The group is working with the instructional coaches and other staff members and advocating for them to at least keep a salary increase that is comparable with the work they do, he said.

Otherwise in some cases, the instructional coaches would make less money than the teachers they coach, he said.

The employees with career status, or tenure, have continuing contracts. Putting those employees on a different pay schedule would also require putting them on at-will or limited term contracts, Jewell said.

“This just hasn’t been handled well from start to finish,” district Chief of Staff Nora Carr said of how the school system and state implemented the raises.

She said the school system had a plan to address the questions that popped up about salaries, but she added she could list the different ways where communication about the salary problems fell apart.

“The bottom line is that’s not acceptable. That’s not OK,” Carr said.

School officials set a tentative goal to resolve the pay issues by December. That includes determining how to best classify the affected employees.

The school system is paying consultants to make recommendations for resolving those issues. The cost was not immediately available.

Some employees might end up getting paid under the teacher pay scale again, and employee salaries might need further adjusting, Carr said.

Late passage of the state budget led to late implementation of employee salaries with raises.

Language in recent legislation folds longevity pay into teachers’ salaries. Other positions, such as central office administrators, get a $500 increase that is separate from their longevity pay.

That legislation makes a distinction between employees working in the classroom and those who are not. Some employees’ positions did not fit as “teachers” as defined in state law, officials said. So, Guilford officials said, they changed who was classified as a teacher based on the language in that legislation.

Officials said they did not realize that the changing the employee classifications would affect how the payroll software calculated their retroactive pay.

“We have not had a salary increase in so long we did not have to use this retro program,” said Angie Henry, the school system’s chief financial officer.

Earlier this month, central office administrators received an email about the employee classification problem from Superintendent Maurice “Mo” Green; Shirley Morrison, the chief human resources officer; and Henry.

In the Oct. 6 email, obtained by the News & Record, officials acknowledged pay problems affecting “a number of important licensed professionals” serving in positions that “support and enrich” Guilford’s educational program.

“Various concerns have been raised about that treatment, including how that treatment impacts not just this current raise, but also longevity pay for the remainder of a career, months of employment, administrative experience and other issues,” the email states.

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