Guilford County Schools Superintendent Sharon Contreras donated her $7,500 pay raise for the 2018-2019 fiscal year to the 13 lowest paid full-time Guilford County Schools employees.
Contreras, who the Guilford County Board of Education hired in June 2016 to follow Mo Green as superintendent beginning Sept. 1, 2016, makes $250,000 a year, the same amount Green made throughout his tenure. Green, in a time of tight state and county budgets, declined his contractual pay raises, citing stalled teacher pay.
Contreras’ contract provides for a 3 percent annual pay raise. Like Green, she declined the raise after her first year. On Friday, Sept. 28, she said she thought about the issue differently this year.
She said, “This year, I thought about it, and said I wanted to give it to the school employees who make the least.”
Guilford County Schools employees, like those of other North Carolina school systems, are divided into certified employees – teachers and administrators – and classified employees, which includes bus drivers and cafeteria employees. Classified employees are paid less than certified employees.
Guilford County Schools identified 13 employees as the lowest-paid. Contreras said those employees made about $20,000 a year.
“I’m not struggling to make ends meet,” she said. “Employees who make that much are. I wanted to make sure they had that check the week before school began, so they could afford clothes and school supplies.”
The $7,500 was split 13 ways, giving each employee $577. Contreras said the employees included bus drivers, janitors and an office assistant.
On Thursday, Sept. 27, the Guilford County school board voted to accept, without major argument, the decision by the Guilford County Board of Commissioners to apply Guilford County’s $4.75 million share of the proceeds of the state lottery to paying off school construction bonds. Guilford County voters approved almost $1 billion in school construction bonds between 2000 and 2008.
School board members for years argued that the lottery proceeds should go to the Guilford County Schools budget, rather than paying off bond debt.
Contreras said that, this year, some school board members considered asking for the lottery money to go to the budget, but that school board member Darlene Garrett reminded them that the county commissioners had made paying off debt with lottery money a policy. Contreras said, “Mrs. Garrett pointed out that we fully knew that this was how the money would be used.”
Contreras also said that, with increasing state revenues, teacher pay has improved.
“The state has been steadily increasing teacher pay,” she said. “By some counts the state is leading the nation in teacher pay growth. However, we are significantly behind some other states in teacher pay. So there is still some work to be done compared to school districts across the nation.”