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Brief | $30,000 salary supplements available for high-performing principals to lead a low-performing school

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Funding is available for as many as 40 principals each year, with an estimated 36 spots available for 2024-25.

Since 2019, North Carolina has funded principal salary supplements to support school districts that desire to transfer or recruit high-performing principals into low-performing schools. District leadership may not be aware these funds are available and recurring in the state budget. This brief overview provides key information about the funding.


Highly-qualified, effective principals — as measured by supervisor evaluation ratings, teacher surveys, and licensure exam scores — are unevenly and often inequitably distributed across schools. Research finds that effective principals are less likely to work in schools with more low-performing students, low-income students, and students of color. This pattern is known as principal sorting.1

Additionally, research suggests that one key barrier to school improvement is the shortage of experienced turnaround principals and that a principal with a track record of turning schools around can facilitate both immediate gains and sustainable improvements.2

Principal Recruitment Supplement

Seeking to combat principal sorting in North Carolina and to improve the quality of leadership in the state’s lowest performing schools, the Principal Recruitment Supplement program was established in 2019 by N.C. Session Law 2019-247, which updated N.C. General Statutes 115C-285.1 to create the program.

The program provides a qualifying principal who accepts a position as a principal in a qualifying low-performing school an annual salary supplement of $30,000, paid on a monthly basis, as long as the principal is employed as the principal of that school, up to a maximum period of 36 months. The supplement is not considered compensation for the purposes of determining retirement benefits.

Qualifying schools

Qualifying schools include low-performing schools, as defined in G.S. 115C-105.37 that received an overall School Performance Score that placed it in the bottom 5% of all schools in the state in the prior school year.

  • State statute defines low-performing schools as schools that earn an overall School Performance Grade of D or F and a School Growth Status of “met expected growth” or “not met expected growth.”
  • This list is released to districts between January and April. District leaders are encouraged to reach out to the N.C. Department of Public Instruction (DPI) in January to learn if they have qualifying schools in their district.
  • Typically, between 110 and 150 schools across North Carolina have been eligible under the current statutory definitions.

Qualifying principals

Qualifying principals include those who are paid on the “Exceeded Growth” column of the Principal Salary Schedule.

Currently, a principal’s placement on the salary schedule is tied to the performance of schools in the prior two school years (see below). Please note this methodology may shift as the state moves away from the pandemic-related gap in school growth data.

  • Principals are paid on the “Exceeded Growth” column in the first half of the year if their school exceeded expected growth in the prior school year.
  • Principals are paid on the “Exceeded Growth” column in the second half of the year if their school exceeded expected growth in at least one of the prior two school years.

Funding and availability

There is $1.3 million in recurring funds available for this program.

Participation data for 2023-24 are not yet available, but an estimated 36 slots are available for the upcoming 2024-25 school year. 

There is enough funding for about 40 principals to participate in the program in a given year.

If fully implemented, about 13 new principals would be added each year, thus having 13 first-year, 13 second-year, and 13 third-year principals at any given time.

Student and school outcomes

Early data on this effort show promising results. The most recent report by DPI on the impact of the Principal Recruitment Supplement program can be found here.

Eleven of the 14 participating schools had a higher School Growth Score in 2021-22 than 2018-19, with an average School Growth Score improvement of 14 points (on a 50-100 scale). Five of those schools moved from a “Did Not Meet” growth score to an “Exceeded” growth score under the leadership of a highly effective principal.

Show 2 footnotes
  1. Grissom, A., Bartenen, B., & Mitani, Hajime. (2019). “Principal Sorting and the Distribution of Principal Quality.” American Educational Research Association Open 5(2), pp.1-21.
  2. Hurt, J. and Sells, M. (2018). “School Turnaround: Examining a Complex Process.” Cognia.

BEST NC (Business for Education Success and Transformation in NC) is a nonprofit, nonpartisan coalition of business leaders committed to improving North Carolina’s education system. We do this by convening a broad constituency; encouraging collaboration around a shared, bold vision for education; and advocating for policies, research, programs, and awareness that will significantly improve education in North Carolina.