04/13/07 — Duplin School Board says vote on supplements was not correct

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Duplin School Board says vote on supplements was not correct

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on April 13, 2007 1:51 PM

KENANSVILLE -- After months of hearing teachers complain about how they were mistreated by the Duplin County Board of Education when it distributed staff supplements in December, the school system's administrators finally had their turn Tuesday night. Their complaint, though, was not about the original distribution, but about the fact the board suspended the second half of their supplements on April 3.

And, while board members admitted they made a mistake when they approved that motion, they took no steps to correct it.

Since receiving a $1 million allocation from the county commissioners in December, the school board has found itself embroiled in a debate with its teachers over the way it divided about $772,000 to increase personnel supplements.

The administrators' complaints stemmed from the decision the board made to suspend the second half of all supplements, except for those scheduled to be awarded to teachers.

The motion, which was made by board member Reginald Kenan, also did not affect the $500 supplements given to classified staff such as child nutrition workers, teacher assistants and bus drivers. That was given in December as one lump sum.

The supplements were originally awarded to bring everybody -- teachers and administrators alike -- up to the state average.

The teachers were upset, though, that they were receiving an average of $2,967 ($2,450 minimum and $3,650 maximum), while assistant principals and line administrators were receiving $5,454, kindergarten through sixth-grade principals were receiving $7,000, kindergarten through eighth-grade principals were receiving $8,500 and high school principals and central office staff were receiving $13,000.

Their complaints, voiced again on April 3, led to Kenan's motion.

"This issue has kept me bothered for a while," Kenan said at the time. "Personally, I think there needs to be some adjustment."

That idea, though, has not gone over well with the administrators.

"We believe that everybody that works in the school system is important, and we believe in everybody getting their fair share," Bo Mullins, principal at Kenansville Elementary, said. "The message that's been sent to this point is that everybody was going to be at the state average. And then you freeze the administrative supplements?

"That sends the message that we are the least important people who work in the school system."

Mullins added that he and other administrators who are members of the North Carolina Association of Educators -- one of the leading groups agitating against the supplement distribution on behalf of the teachers -- have never been included in any discussion of the issue.

Other administrators, including chief financial officer Carolyn Olivarez and director of high school reform Dora Jernigan, also protested the decision.

They explained that for years, administrative supplements have lagged further behind the state average than those given to teachers. They also noted that during those years, the administrators had lobbied for higher teacher supplements while not complaining about their own.

Now, though, they continued, it's their turn to speak up.

"A mere thank you to quality administrators will no longer suffice. We are held accountable, too," Mrs. Jernigan said. "To move Duplin County forward, we must attract quality teachers and administrators."

Once the line of administrators sat down, the board did their best to pacify them.

"You're exactly right, in my opinion," board chairwoman Emily Manning told them. "I think it only fair for the board to reconsider that decision and honor the earlier decision.

"I believe in sticking by a decision when you make one."

When the board unanimously approved the supplement suspension, Mrs. Manning, as chairwoman, did not vote.

The rest of the board, apologized, that when they suspended the supplements, they didn't mean for principals and assistant principals to be included.

"I think there was a mistake in the original motion. The intention was to look at central office supplements," board member Jennings Outlaw said. "That's not to say central office people would not receive what they were originally told, but we want to look at the procedure for giving those."

Currently those supplements are tied to those given to high school principals.

But on Tuesday, the board took no steps to give the second half of the supplements back to principals and assistant principals. They did not give a reason for their inaction.

"I expect it to come back up at the next meeting (on April 24)," was all Kenan would say.