Cover Story: School district saving jobs with top brass pay cut

By Jeff Atkinson - bio | email

STATESVILLE, NC (WBTV) - A lot's been made about Charlotte Mecklenburg Schools' nearly 1,200 layoffs, 665 of them have been teachers;  all the while school Superintendent Peter Gorman and his top lieutenants have held on to their six-figure salary.  In our Cover Story, PrimeTime's Jeff Atkinson has found a school district where they're cutting top brass salary to save teachers' jobs.

To a child's education they're a school's most important resource.. teachers.

But because of state red ink.. even teachers' jobs are on the chopping block this recession.

School districts which get most of their money from the state are having to let teachers go.  And it's happening across North Carolina.  With one exception.  The Iredell-Statesville School district.

"We haven't laid off any certified teachers."

Dr. Terry Holliday superintendent says they've cut every corner - looked under every rock to save teachers' jobs.  And it's not been easy.

The school district's local funding from Iredell county was cut 8-percent.  And it's expected to see a state funding reduction of up to-12 percent.

The state shortfall has forced Iredell-Statesville which opens a new school this fall to furlough all assistant principals for two weeks.. basically cutting their pay four percent.

And when that happened.. Superintendent Holliday and his team decided to go a step farther:  Cut all Central Office adminstrators.. principals and school board members pay 2-percent.

"We just thought it was only fair that if teacher pay is frozen.  And we're having across-the-board layoffs maybe we can mitigate some of those layoffs with this small effort," says Iredell-Statesville's superintendent.

A bold move by Dr. Terry Holiday.. North Carolina's 2009 Superintendent of the Year.  His is apparently the only district in the state that's cut top brass pay.

Affecting 80 people.  And saving the district 120-thousand dollars.  Enough to keep at least a couple teachers, maybe hold onto five teacher assistant positions, Holliday says.

"We have the legal ability to do this. And also I think we have the moral requirement to do this."

It's not official yet.. the school board has to approve the 2-percent administration pay cut Monday night.

But the message it send to the community speaks volumes.

He says, "They usually say you ought to cut more. You're making way too much as the superintendent. And I probably agree with thm. But it's a hard job.. (Laughter)."

Iredell-Statesville Schools hasn't laid off any employees through this crisis.  They've made the cuts through retirement and attritions.

And they're using federal stimulus dollars to keep some teachers on the job.

Things could change next week though.. the state's looking at cutting funding for teacher assistants..

Why aren't other districts doing it?

Some districts are apparently afraid they don't have the legal right.. because many of the top brass are under contract.  Holliday says they researched it and can do it.