School staff members to receive payments from unprecedented RSS bonus package June 23

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 11, 2021

SALISBURY — The Rowan-Salisbury Schools Board of Education on Thursday unanimously approved an unprecedented $3.3 million round of bonuses for district staff.

The district will pay each classified staff member a bonus equal to 6.5% of annual base salary. All certified staff will be paid a flat rate of $1,000.

Superintendent Tony Watlington told RSS board the chance to give a bonus like the one approved Thursday will probably never happen again and credited Associate Superintendent of Resources Carol Herndon for bonuses being possible. Watlington praised the district’s staff for their efforts during a challenging year.

“Generally, you’ll never see me recommend to the board that we ever touch our fund balance,” Watlington said. “In most school districts, the fund balance should always be thought of as a lock box. It’s like a personal savings in our own personal finances. You just don’t touch it.”

He said this is a one-time exception to that rule because the district expects to add   $1.65 million to $2.65 million to the fund balance by the close of this fiscal year.

Herndon told the RSS board the N.C. Department of Public Instruction gave clear guidance the district could not use the millions in federal relief funding for this particular bonus. Therefore, the $3.3 million will come from local funding; federal money will be used to pay for other projects.

Board member Brian Hightower was critical of the guidance from the state not allowing the relief funding to be used for this purpose, but he supported giving staff the bonus.

“The teachers deserve every bit of this,” Hightower said.

Watlington said the district will be able to use federal aid to pay teachers for summer work.

He said administrative staff wanted to move on the recommendation now because the RSS’ finance department closes out payroll before the fiscal year ends on June 30. Staff will be paid on June 23.

Watlington said the district is not alone in its thinking. Several local businesses and nearby school districts are also providing bonuses.

“We’re not doing it just because they’re doing it,” Watlington said. “We want to do it because we’re Rowan-Salisbury Schools and we think it’s the right thing to do to recognize our hard working employees.”

During the called virtual meeting, Watlington noted a salary study was started under former Superintendent Lynn Moody and the district is still in the midst of of the study. The reason for the more generous bonus for classified staff is because they are paid the least in the district.

“We just think that the higher percentage of the bonus ought to go to the people who make the least amount of money,” Watlington said.

Board member Dean Hunter said this was the first time in his seven years on the board he’s received a recommendation from the superintendent to use this amount of money from fund balance without any other discussion. Hunter said he thought the bonuses could have been handled better, but added nobody in their right mind would say “no” to the recommendation.

About Carl Blankenship

Carl Blankenship has covered education for the Post since December 2019. Before coming to Salisbury he was a staff writer for The Avery Journal-Times in Newland and graduated from Appalachian State University in 2017, where he was editor of The Appalachian.

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