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School board approves principal longevity pay

SALISBURY — Local principals will now receive longevity pay supplements after Monday night’s Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education meeting.

The move stems from a proposal submitted by Superintendent Lynn Moody. The three-pronged plan includes supplement increases for longevity, principals of at-risk schools and those who take on community responsibilities.

According to a recent salary study ordered by the school system, local principals are paid an average of $5,000 less than their peers in other counties. Earlier this year, the Rowan County Board of Commissioners allotted ab0ut $180,000 to close the gap.

However, Moody argued that recent legislative changes set the district back further. When the N.C. General Assembly passed its budget, it included a provision for principal salaries that awarded bonuses based on school growth and average daily student count. According to Moody, the only Rowan-Salisbury school to meet those requirements is Jesse C. Carson High School.

The proposal, taken as a whole, had a roughly $300,000 price tag.

However, board members had several objections. Dean Hunter said that while he was “in no way opposed” to increasing principal supplements, he objects to how they will be administered under the proposal. It’s possible, he said, for one principal to get a $27,000 supplement and another to get only $3,000. Hunter said he feels that is contrary to the results of the salary study.

“I don’t think it correlates to what we were trying to fix. … This recommendation does not fix that. It would fix some of that,” he said.

The use of county funding also rubbed Hunter the wrong way. He argued that when the board requested money from the county in the spring, it had implied a specific use for the funds.

“There’s an understanding that you’re going to take care of 36 principals at $5,000. And that’s not what we’re doing,” he said.

Moody tried to explain what had changed since the spring budget workshops.

“Legislation changed between that process. And that set off a whole new set of challenges that we did not anticipate or foresee,” she said.

And the $5,000 gap in the salary study, she pointed out, was an average number. Some principals need more than that to meet market-value salaries, and some need less.

“It did not mean that every principal needed a $5,000 raise,” she said.

The proposal was a way to even out the gaps and to ensure that supplements and bonuses are sustainable and something principals could count on.

“So what you see is a more comprehensive plan,” she said.

But board members still took issue with two of the supplements — community principal and at-risk school bonuses. Portions of both would be covered by eliminating current bonuses paid out of the board’s fund balance, while the rest remained unfunded.

Board member Travis Allen was the first to suggest breaking apart the proposal piece by piece.

“I’m more interested in approving something with the allocated money the commissioners gave us,” he said.

Allen also argued for supplement increases for classified staff — janitors, food service workers and  bus drivers.

“You’re feeding one portion and not the other. And I think you can do it all at one time,” he said.

Board Chairman Josh Wagner said he thought the proposal was “a longer discussion” but agreed there was no reason to not use the commissioners’ allocation to improve longevity supplements. The other two points could be discussed at a later date.

Board members argued back and forth about whether to approve an at-risk schools supplement and about what could be done for classified staff or assistant principals. Moody pointed out that principals were the only group that had been left out of state supplement increases for the past several years.

“It looks like a lot for them in one leap. … But the truth of the matter is that it’s been neglected for so long that that’s where it’s got to,” she said.

The board went through the proposal section by section. Longevity supplements were unanimously approved. Principals in their first through third years with the school system will receive a $3,000 bonus, those with four to five years will receive $7,000, and those with six or more years will receive $10,000.

The supplements will be funded using the allocation from the county commissioners. At-risk and community principal supplements will be brought back at the board’s Sept. 11 work session.

In other business, the board:

  • Approved naming the new western elementary school West Rowan Elementary School.
  • Approved moving the board’s business meeting start time to 4 p.m. The board will immediately enter into closed session, then recess until 5 p.m. should the closed session end early. Celebrations will be held at 5 p.m. and public comment at 6 p.m.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264. 

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