‘Pay us today:’ Dozens of Gaston Co. Schools employees hold demonstrations Friday demanding a resolution to payroll issues

The district sent an updated message to employees Thursday explaining updates on adjustments.
Dozens of employees at several schools held demonstrations on Friday demanding transparency and corrected paychecks.
Published: Sep. 9, 2022 at 5:04 PM EDT

BELMONT, N.C. (WBTV) - Dozens of Gaston County Schools employees hit the pavement Friday and held demonstrations after nearly eight months of issues with the district’s new payroll system.

WBTV first reported on the payroll transition in February as the district transitioned to the Oracle system with the help of online technical support company CherryRoad Technologies.

Previous Coverage: ‘What is the road out?’ Gaston County Schools employees still experiencing payroll issues; state treasurer communicating with district staff

The district sent a message to employees Thursday saying it is working to correct issues with longevity pay, individual payroll issues, overpayments, and deductions for open enrollment benefits.

Friday morning employees gathered outside of multiple schools including South Point High School, Holbrook Middle School, Southwest Middle School, Costner Elementary School and multiple others.

Veteran teacher Janice Miller said it’s been a long eight months of issues and she’s noticed it taking a toll on her colleagues.

“It’s been confusing. I haven’t had a big loss of pay but I’ve seen teachers crying in the hallways because their check didn’t come through or there was a $1,000 deduction that they couldn’t understand,” Miller said.

The district has done multiple off-cycle pay runs to correct missing plug-in pay, longevity pay, summer pay, missing checks, and deductions due to issues with the new payroll system that started in January.

“The County has cut a lot of paper checks to try and get people paid but past a certain point this is ridiculous,” Miller said.

The district is in the process of uploading the May retirement contribution files, after multiple attempts to upload the April file. It’s a delay that some retirees said is hurting them even after they left the district.

The North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE) sent a letter to the district in July, pushing for transparency and a timeline of solutions.

“We are exploring the possibility of further legal action,” NCAE President Tamika Walker Kelly said. “It is unacceptable that we are sending our educators to teach in schools and they cannot be paid for the important work that they do every day which is serving the community.”

“While everybody sorts out where the source of the real problem is, the district needs to step up and make people whole, and then somebody in power needs to point at the right place and say here is what the problem is, and here is what we’re going to do to fix it,” NCAE Vice President Bryan Proffitt said.

The Gaston County NCAE held a town hall Tuesday, Sept. 6 where members and non-members discussed how the payroll situation has affected them individually.

President Pam Miller said that the Gaston chapter has invited school leaders to their next town hall on Sept. 12.

Previous Coverage: Gaston County Schools continuing to correct payment issues due to new payroll system

“Those decision-makers include GCS Central Office Administrators; NC State Representatives John Torbett, Donnie Loftis and Kelly Hastings; NC State Senators Kathy Harrington and Ted Alexander; State Treasurer Dale Folwell and Director of School Business System Modernization Barry Pace,” Pam Miller said. “Our goal is for our decision-makers to truly hear our concerns and demands for change in the current payroll system. We can no longer continue with the constant stress of not being paid at all, not being paid fully or having double deductions of benefits from our pay.”

The Oracle system is also set to launch in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, which is a district with nearly triple the number of employees.

CMS is currently doing an assessment of the program and will continue until it’s complete, according to a district spokesperson.

“This is a transformational process that CMS does not take lightly,” Chief Technology Officer Candace Salmon-Hosey said. “We are in the process of evaluating the current status of our Oracle project to clarify next steps and outline a successful path forward.”

“Our approach will be to take the time to do this project right and avoid the pitfalls other organizations are experiencing,” Salmon-Hosey continued. “By CMS employing best practices for change management and proven design, development, and testing methodologies, the district will be able to identify and resolve major issues through prior to establishing a production environment.”

CMS retiree Ira Reed said these problems need to be addressed now it affects thousands of other employees across the state.

“If it’s a big problem in a small system can you imagine what kind of problems it’s going to create in Charlotte? Astronomical,” Reed said.

As they look for the light at the end of the tunnel employees say they’ll keep raising their voices and hoping demonstrations like this help them get answers and their hard-earned money.

“I have confidence that they’re going to fix the retirement credits, but they have not been transparent about what the problems are which is one of the reasons that we’re out here,” Miller said.

“It’s going to be more pushback until somebody in power fixes this,” Proffitt said.

GCS sent a message to employees Thursday saying the delay in the retirement file upload doesn’t affect the interest on their retirement until the end of the year, not monthly. In addition, GCS is working on adjustments in the system for longevity pay and pay increases for hourly employees.