Gaston Co. Schools approves COVID retention bonus, discusses payroll issues at Board of Education meeting

GCS approved a $3,000 COVID retention bonus and a $1200 payment for employees doing LETRS training
More money is on the way for Gaston County Schools employees, but many of them are skeptical if they’ll get it on time or at all.
Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 11:02 PM EDT

GASTONIA, N.C. (WBTV) - More money is on the way for Gaston County Schools employees, but many of them are skeptical if they’ll get it on time or at all.

The district transitioned from its old payroll system to a new system, Oracle, at the end of January.

Officials say there have been dozens of errors with uploading employee retirement, fixing deductions, correcting extra payments, and sending employees checks if they did not get one.

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

At Monday’s Board of Education meeting, district staff said they would be enlisting the help of another Oracle consulting company True Ingenuity to assist with improving workflow, preparing needed reports, and evaluating any security concerns.

This company also works with CMS.

“They are engaged with us and they’re on your consent agenda to help improve our workflow, to prepare needed reports to avoid some issues that could be avoided if we have information in advance, and to escalate any security concerns,” said Gary Hoskins, the district’s Associate Superintendent for Finance and Operations.

The district is still working to upload the June retirement files into the ORBIT system.

Long-time teacher and Gaston NCAE Vice President Alexa Gram Feller says she is most concerned about her and her husband’s retirement being processed properly.

“Especially me since I am toward the end of my career, making sure that I get everything I need toward my retirement,” Gram Feller said.

Teacher and Gaston NCAE President Pam Miller says her paychecks haven’t been significantly affected but she is nervous that hers could be affected in the future like hundreds of other employees.

“My paycheck has been fine but it could be my turn in September or my turn in October. I’ve been squirreling away as much money as I can in case that happens,” Miller said.

Adrienne Scearce worked as an educational assistant and student success coordinator with the school district for nearly three and a half years before changing careers in May.

Scearce says even now she hasn’t been paid her time with the afterschool program in addition to her daily role. Scearce says many of the employees, including herself, were given comp time for any hours outside of their 40-hour work week. She says she took this to her supervisors for it to be corrected.

“I still have not been paid for any of those hours and I’m up to about 150 hours,” Scearce said.

Scearce says she is still trying to get clear communication and a timeline from GCS and hopes other employees get their correct checks soon.

“I don’t care if they’re owed just a dollar you know that’s money that they worked for and they deserve to get it,” Scearce said.

On Monday, Board members approved a $3,000 COVID retention bonus split up over this school year.

This will be paid out of federal ESSER funds for a grand total of $12.0 million

Gram Feller and Miller both believe the bonus should’ve been at least $5,000.

“For everything that everybody has gone through during this payroll, I think we should get more,” Gram Feller said.

Miller isn’t confident that the bonuses will be paid on time either.

“I feel like it’ll be, we’ll still have the issues with people getting the pay they’ve been promised in a timely manner,” Miller said.

In addition, Board members a $1200 payment for Pre-k through fifth-grade teachers doing state-mandated LETRS. The payment will be paid in two installments over the next two years. This will also be paid for through $1 million in ESSER funds.

GCS is still working to refund employees who had extra deductions from their checks, writing paper checks and doing off-cycle pay runs as needed, fixing longevity pay, and catching up on the retirement file uploads.

“I hope that anything that they put in place is going to make it better,” Gram Feller said.

The district plans to pay the first third of the bonus in January and the other two in June. Additionally, the LETRS training money will be paid out to employees this year and next year.

GCS also started a customer service office for employees who need support in an effort to better streamline communication.