FORSYTH COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools Board of Education approved a revised salary schedule during a meeting on Tuesday night and discussed a $16 million calculation error that left many educators wondering if they would get a raise.

Teachers will now get a $1,800 annual supplement increase, which is about half of what they were expecting before the multi-million calculation error.

That means every teacher will get around $150 more per month on their paycheck no matter when they were hired.

The increase is effective immediately and is retroactive to the beginning of this school year, according to a WS/FCS news release.

The cost of the increased supplements is approximately $10 million and will be funded with $5.6 million from Article 46 sales tax revenue. $2.2 million will come from county funding that will be recurring starting with fiscal year 2022-23.

The balance will be achieved by using other permanent funding sources.

“This amount is sustainable based on current local funding levels,” said WS/FCS Chief Financial Officer Andrea Gillus. “That is important as we look to a future that may not include a surplus of federal funds.”

The new salary schedule approved by the board is in response to a previous vote in December to approve new salary schedules for certified staff. Since that approval, an error in the formula calculation was discovered and the amount approved was roughly $16 million over what was budgeted for local supplement increases.

The calculation error was discovered before the schedule was implemented and executed.

The new annual supplement marks an increase from recent years, according to WS/FCS.

In 2018-19, the annual supplement for a beginning teacher was $2,600. It was increased to $3,315 in 2019-20 and $4,600 in 2020-21. The newly approved schedule for 2021-22 will mark a $1,800 increase over last year for a total of $6,400.

“This calculation error was significant and brought to light important process changes needed within our Human Resources Compensation Team. We never want to provide false information, which is exactly what happened in this situation,” said WS/FCS Superintendent Tricia McManus. “I am thankful to say that we are able to increase the supplement to $1,800. My goal was to close the gap as much as possible between what was approved and the original supplement budget. I am very aware that educators are underpaid, and I am committed to finding additional funds that we can allocate toward employee salaries.”

Since the calculation error, new WS/FCS compensation practices have been put into place.

All compensation estimations must now have two staff members from Human Resources and two staff members from Finance review them for accuracy. Additional training is being provided on how to review for accuracy and any estimates will now be calculated using multiple methods.

In addition to supplements for certified staff, the board also heard an update on approved and proposed bonuses for all staff members.

Proposed future bonuses include an ESSR funded Recognition and Retention Bonus of $1,500 for all staff in February and another in April.

A locally funded spring bonus of $700 for certified staff and $500 for all other staff has already been approved for May.

In total, WS/FCS employees will receive bonuses of $5000 or more this school year.

Several teachers and community members spoke during the meeting about the initial $3,800 raise they were expecting

They asked for the school board to make the error right and convince them to stay. Some educators also said they have lost faith in the district.

Many teachers shared stories about their struggles including working multiple jobs, not getting lunch breaks and covering classes.

Another teacher asked the school board to install two ex-officio members, one certified and one classified, on the board.

A student spoke out to ask for teacher pay raises as well. She said the board of education fought hard to open schools last year, but all students get now is a substitute teacher and a generic lesson plan.

The error was discovered on Jan.6 three weeks after the initial pay increase was approved.

McManus released the following statement when the error was discovered:

I am writing today to share some important information about our salary and compensation schedules.  As you know we have embarked on a year long process to bring our compensation to competitive levels.  We value employees and our Finance and Human Resources teams have worked diligently to compare our salaries and local supplements to that of other districts.  We are committed to maintaining one of the highest compensation schedules for our employees.

Before the holiday break, the Board of Education approved a new supplement model, and it listed a significant increase for our Certified Employee supplement. Since that approval, an error in the original calculation has been discovered. Because of that calculation error, the amount approved was roughly $16 million dollars above what was budgeted for local increases.  It was a significant calculation mistake and thankfully it was captured before the schedule was ever implemented and executed.  I join our Finance and Human Resources teams in sincerely apologizing for the mistake and I regret the formula error was not captured before the salary schedules were made public.  I never want to give misinformation and false hope, especially when it involves your compensation. 

As a result of finding and correcting this error, we have reorganized the teams managing and monitoring compensation. We have implemented a new four-step process to check all salary formulas and calculations before they are made public and before presenting to the Board of Education for approval.  With these new, lengthy checks and balances in place, it will allow us to avoid this in the future.

So, what does this mean for you? On Tuesday we will present the updated salary schedule to the Board of Education.  They will look at the budget and the updated formula and be tasked with deciding what the new local supplement schedule will be.  While it likely will not be as high as the amounts portrayed in the previously approved schedule, as we have said from the beginning of this process, we are committed to ensuring a significant supplement increase for our staff.  The goal of our proposal will be to minimize the gap between what was published in December and what is more in line with the amount of money available for supplements.

The proposal will include a minimum average annual supplement increase of $1,800. This of course will vary depending on where you fall on the supplemental schedule. The beginning teacher annual supplement would be a minimum of $6,400. Again, while not as high as what was previously approved, this supplement increase will be greater than in years past. 

I know the challenges currently faced in our schools and the amazing work you are doing to support our students.  We will continue to find ways to provide bonuses for employees.  In addition to the $1,500 ESSER bonus being paid in March and the $700 local bonus being paid in May, we are going to request an additional bonus for April and work to follow this pattern over the next two school years.

It is no secret that educators are severely underpaid. While I have little control over state and national funding,  I can continue finding local ways to add to our WS/FCS educator pay.  I promise to keep this a priority.  

I encourage you to watch Tuesday’s Board of Education meeting and follow the process as we work to solidify what the supplemental pay schedule will be moving forward. We will communicate the corrected, approved salary schedule soon after Tuesday’s meeting.  

Thank you, Tricia McManus – WS/FCS Superintendent