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Principal pay slated for possible overhaul

A joint legislative study committee on school-based administrator pay unveiled Monday a preliminary proposal to reform the way North Carolina pays its principals.

The committee, co-chaired by Sen. Jerry Tillman, R-Randolph, and Rep. Hugh Blackwell, R-Burke, presented a plan that would eliminate the principal salary schedule and replace it with an allotment that superintendents can use as they see fit to hire principals. Currently, North Carolina is 50th in the nation (including Washington, D.C) for principal pay.

“If we’re 50th in the nation, what we’re doing isn’t the best way to go about getting the best principal in the best location,” Tillman said.

See introductory remarks from Tillman and Blackwell below:

The allotment for principals would be based on statewide average principal pay. The salary schedule for assistant principals would also be scrapped and replaced with a new salary schedule.

In addition, the plan would increase average pay for principals and assistant principals, and provide funds for performance bonuses and to reduce the pay gap between high-wealth and low-wealth school districts.

Tillman said the total amount of money available from the state for principal and assistant principal pay would need to go up about three to five percent “at a minimum.” But he also said between $8 and $10 million would be needed above and beyond that to use for performance bonuses.

Go here and here to see details about the proposed plan.

We documented in detail the problems with the principal salary schedule in January of 2015. These include principals who have to wait years for raises from the state, teachers who are paid more than their principals, and principals jumping between districts to get a better local salary supplement. Alexis Schauss, director of the Division of School Business at the State Department of Public Instruction, presented Monday about the salary schedule issues. See her presentation document here or watch the video of her presentation below. Go here for a history of the school-based administrator salary schedule in North Carolina.

The committee brought together a group of superintendents and others to review and comment on the proposed plan. In attendance were:

  • Dr. Stephen Gainey, Superintendent Randolph County Schools
  • Dr. Beverly Emery, Superintendent Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools
  • Dr. Frank Till, Jr., Superintendent Cumberland County Schools
  • Dr. Pascal Mubenga, Superintendent Franklin County Schools
  • Katherine Joyce, Executive Director, NC Association of School Administrators
  • Leanne Winner, Legislative Director, NC School Boards Association

Overall, the panelists said they liked some aspects of the plan but would prefer not to scrap a principal salary schedule altogether.

Till said, particularly in a large school district, that it would be difficult to negotiate with every single principal, and that he worried the system could get out of hand.

“I’m worried about the inequities,” he said. “People come and suddenly want to get more. And it’s not hard before you can get that off track real easy.”

Shirley Prince, executive director of the North Carolina Principals and Assistant Principals’ Association, was in the audience at Monday’s meeting and said in an interview that she agreed with the panelists.

“Without a solid base salary, you would have all sorts of disparities amongst principals from county to county,” she said. “That could really create some difficulties trying to recruit strong teachers into school leadership positions.”

Tillman said the goal of the committee was to develop a budget provision that could be introduced in the upcoming long session of the General Assembly. He told the panelists the committee would take their ideas into consideration and incorporate them in some way for discussion at the next committee meeting. He predicted there would likely be at least three meetings of the committee.

For a chart showing statistics on pay and local supplements for principals and assistant principals around the state, go here.

Alex Granados

Alex Granados was the senior reporter for EducationNC from December 2014-March 2023.