Friday, September 30, 2022

School district takes corrective measures for failing to pay 200 employees on time

The DA along with Sheriff have requested an outside investigation into allegations against New Hanover County Schools administration. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna Ferebee)
Around a couple hundred new hires in New Hanover County Schools did not receive a paycheck on Wednesday due to clerical issues. (PCD).

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Around a couple hundred new hires in New Hanover County Schools did not receive a paycheck on Wednesday due to clerical issues. 

NHCS Chief Communication Officer Josh Smith said it comes down to timing of the payroll calendar, due to a large number of onboarding staff in the final days of the month ahead of payday on Aug. 31. 

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The issue has since been fixed, with payments scheduled to go through Thursday. Some people received hand-delivered checks.

School board member Judy Justice told Port City Daily she received three calls from teachers that did not get paid. She notified the central office of the issue via email at 10 p.m. Wednesday night. 

Smith said three things complicated the situation. Teachers due for bonuses in addition to their regular check may have seen the supplemental pay arrive in their bank accounts ahead of Aug. 31. Smith explained people may have interpreted that remittance as their entire check. 

Second, the large amounts of new hires recently slowed efforts to get forms filled out and information input into the system ahead of payday. 

Smith said everyone should have received their salary or wage payment by the end of Thursday at the latest. The only left to disburse are bonuses for coaches, which will clear Friday. 

Smith told PCD he is unaware if late payments occurred before: ”I don’t remember having this same conversation last year.”

He explained if someone starts on Aug. 22, but payroll has already been completed, their payment for those few days might be rolled over to the next period, as happened to him when he started in June 2021. 

“I think there’s some normalcy to that,” Smith added. “It just affected a whole lot of people this time.” 

But this year he called a “perfect storm” of circumstances. 

“I don’t think it’s accurate to say this was a technical error, nor is it accurate to say that anyone in finance necessarily did anything wrong,” Smith said. 

Justice concurred she had never seen this happen during her time as a school board member, for which she has served since 2018. Yet, she also she said the finance department has experienced a “huge turnover” of staff in the last six months. The district’s former chief finance officer, Mary Small, retired in March after 30-plus years in the role. Justice claimed a lot of people left with her. 

Despite the setback, Smith said the school district is off to a strong start. 

“We started this year with only six teacher vacancies,” Smith said. 

The success is a sharp upturn from previous months, according to Justice, who estimated the district lost over 100 teachers since the spring and was down to 30 or 40 classified staff over the summer.

She admitted not having exact numbers: “I have a hard time getting figures from central office.” 

Justice was disappointed the mixup was how new employees’ were first introduced to NHCS. More so, she thought the pay interruption could have been better communicated to the teachers.

“Central office should have sent out something explaining the issue and let people know their checks would be late,” Justice said.


Reach journalist Brenna Flanagan at brenna@localdailymedia.com.

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