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Pay increases coming for some in Haywood schools

Some employees in the Haywood County school system will see more money in their paychecks this month, thanks to state legislators.

Teachers, however, aren’t among them. 

Associate Superintendent of Haywood County Schools Dr. Bill Nolte said that the state had given a half-percent base pay increase to most employees, and also gave around $77,000 to distribute as “merit pay increases” to qualifying employees. 

The state allowed the school district to decide how to divvy up the merit pay cash; a committee chaired by Canton Middle School Principal Todd Barbee that consisted of everyone from janitors to cafeteria workers to administrators decided that full-time employees with good evaluations would receive around $400; full-timers with average evaluations would receive around $200; part-time employees with good evaluations are in line for a roughly $200 payment, and part-timers with an average evaluation about $100. 

But again, none of that money can be used to fatten the wallets of teachers, who have been leaving Haywood County for higher-paying gigs elsewhere and on average spend about $500 a year of their own money each year to ensure students are prepared to learn on day one. 

Teachers in the Haywood County school system receive supplement pay, which amounts to anywhere from 2 to 5 percent of their base salary. 

That supplement pay comes from Haywood County Commissioners, who Nolte said have been “very good” to the district, providing an amount that pushes Haywood County into the top 25 percent of all North Carolina districts. 

But that supplement pay in Haywood County has remained flat as neighboring counties — especially to the east — have raised theirs, making Haywood County less competitive in the labor market. 

While not exactly an exodus, recent reports indicate that Haywood County has had trouble retaining the talented teachers that have helped Haywood County Schools climb into the top ten percent in the state.

The issue has even crept into the county commissioner’s race; with two seats open — incumbent Kevin Ensley seeks to retain his while Chairman Mark Swanger is retiring — the board could see a drastic makeover come January. 

But all four candidates have expressed some degree of sympathy for increasing teacher supplement pay. Brandon Rogers said he supports it “absolutely,” as does Robin Black. Steve Brown isn’t in favor of a line item increase, but is in favor of finding better ways to keep experienced educators in the Haywood County system, and Ensley suggested waiting on the findings of a school board panel before taking any action.

That panel is currently being convened by Superintendent Dr. Anne Garrett. 

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