WS/FCS teachers reflect on their jobs after $16 million salary miscalculation

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When Michele Jordan learned from Winston-Salem Schools that she would be getting a raise, she was thrilled.

“When that phone call came in, I thought I might be able to pay some of my medical bills,” she said at a Jan. 11 school board meeting.

Jordan, a fifth-grade teacher at Brunson Elementary School, is battling cancer in addition to the lingering perils of the pandemic. Unfortunately, the next time she heard from the district was when they called to tell her she would no longer be getting that raise.

Due to a miscalculation, it was announced on January 6 that the Winston-Salem Forsyth County schools budget was $16 million short. This meant that teachers would not get the promised raises, which were supposed to increase salaries by an average of 2.5% according to WFDD reports, which would have amounted to about $3,800 per teacher. First-year teachers, 10 months, were also to receive $8,200 in local supplements, which would be a permanent addition to their salary. The increases would have made teacher salaries at Winston-Salem/Forsyth County schools among the highest in the state for beginning teachers.

Screenshot of the January 11 school board meeting that describes how the miscalculation occurred.

In the days since the error was announced, the district has pledged to do what it can regarding teacher compensation, but payouts won’t be as high as promised. Andrea Gillus, director of finance for Winston-Salem and Forsyth County School, closed the January 11 meeting by presenting the new budget.

Annual additional teacher increases will now increase by $1,800, effective immediately. The new additional remuneration will also retroactively cover the first half of the school year. And while the increase is about $2,000 less than the amount originally proposed, it is higher than last year’s annual increase of $1,285. New teachers will now receive $6,400 instead of the $8,200 originally offered.

The new budget will also include emergency aid for elementary and secondary schools, also known as ESSER bonuses, vacation bonuses and state-funded bonuses.

Gillus said the funds were disabled because the board used the wrong formula to calculate the budget. To avoid this in the future, new compensation practices include additional training on how to review for accuracy, assigning more staff to review all compensation estimates, and calculating all estimates on the basis of accuracy. using several methods.

“We’re going to look at all of our sources of funding and see where we have money,” Gillus said.

At the same school board meeting, dozens of people came out to talk about the budget error and what more the school board can do about it.

While teacher salaries vary based on experience and other factors, the current average teacher salary in Forsyth County is $41,500 according to Intuit’s 733 income tax records. last year. Guilford County’s average salary is $43,500 based on 988 records and the average teacher salary in the United States is $47,500 based on 506,411 records.


Teachers dressed in red filled the school board meeting room on January 11. (screenshot)

Some teachers mentioned that they considered quitting before they were promised a raise, only to have it taken away. Others spoke of co-workers who had planned to refinance their home and are no longer able to, even with the bonuses.

Others mentioned working two or three jobs to make ends meet or not being able to spend time with their own children because of all the hours they were working. Some members of the public cried as their colleagues addressed the board.

Nicole Walters, a third-grade teacher at Brunson, said she fears she made a mistake in becoming a teacher.

“Since the first year of teaching here, I have hoped for a change in the way society views teachers,” Walters said at the meeting. After hearing about the initial raise, she said, “I felt appreciated. I felt like I could cut back on my second job and spend time with my family and friends.

Now she is waiting for the district to redeem itself.

The lack of a substantial increase this year is the latest in a long line of problems teachers have faced recently. Kristin Kennedy, an English teacher at Reynolds High School, has been teaching for eight years and has never seen anything like the mass teacher exodus right now.

At the end of the 2021 school year, the RAND Corporation found that one in four teachers were considering leaving the profession. That number rose to nearly half among black teachers. Forsyth County currently has 140 teaching vacancies, which Director of Marketing and Communications Brent Campbell says could be due to a number of reasons, including COVID.

Kennedy and his colleagues have been covering colleagues for two years now. She says that because Reynolds has few teachers and fewer substitutes, she has been slimmer than ever.

“We don’t even feel comfortable staying home if we’re sick because we don’t want our co-workers to have to underclass our class,” Kennedy said. TCA in an interview. “Now I only stay out for COVID. I have sick days, and I should be able to use them, but I’m afraid to. There are not enough people in the schools to take care of the children and there are not enough substitutes to follow all the lessons. I don’t want to burden my colleagues.

Lauren Stewart, another teacher at Reynolds, said things only got worse following the Mount Tabor shootings earlier this year.

“Everyone I work with has all stepped up to do more than is contractually obligated,” she said. “Hearing that we were going to get such a big raise, I felt like the district cared. Then we got the call and I cried.

“I live paycheck to paycheck,” Stewart continued. “There are months where I sit with my partner and try to figure out how we’re going to get on until the end of the month. It would have been amazing not to have to.