N.C. state representative shares email confirming Gaston Co. Schools was advised to wait on transition to new payroll system

NCDPI sent the school district more than $700,000 for training and support
The school district transitioned from its old payroll system to a new system, Oracle, at the...
The school district transitioned from its old payroll system to a new system, Oracle, at the end of January(WBTV)
Published: Sep. 22, 2022 at 4:55 PM EDT
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GASTONIA, N.C. (WBTV) - WBTV is learning more about the payroll challenges in Gaston County Schools.

WBTV’s education reporter Courtney Cole obtained copies of emails from N.C. State Representative Kelly Hastings on Thursday regarding the payroll issues in Gaston County Schools.

One of the emails was sent from a fiscal analyst within the NC General Assembly’s Fiscal Research Division to Rep. Hastings and his research assistant in early September.

The first part of the email clarified the purpose of school district’s transitioning to more modern payroll systems as part of a School Business Systems Modernization Project.

“This is part of the School Business System Modernization project that the General Assembly enacted into law in SL 2016-94 and began funding in the 2017 budget. DPI developed the specs for what a “modern” school business IT platform should look like and issued an RFP. Then, DPI awarded two vendors from which an LEA could choose to migrate their current software, and the State would pay the migration cost. The program is not mandatory; however whatever system the LEAs choose does have to abide by the State Board of Education’s Uniform Education Reporting System (UERS), per GS 115C-12(18).”

According to the fiscal analyst, the Fiscal Research Division first heard about the school district’s issues in February and March. From there the Fiscal Research Division contacted the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction and the analyst says they were told the school district was advised by NCDPI and the vendor not to launch the program in January.

NCDPI sent the district $494,200 for March and April 2022 as a non-recurring payment and $237,920 for May and June 2022 as an additional non-recurring payment to help with support and training after the program launched in January. NCDPI says it is continuing to work with the Oracle executive leadership and K-12 team to provide support to Gaston County Schools

The school district transitioned from its old payroll system to a new system, Oracle, at the end of January after delaying it from an original start date of July 1, 2021, for the Finance and Human Resources/Payroll departments.

Another email states the Fiscal Research Division in the NC General Assembly received an e-mail from DPI’s Chief Information Officer Dr. Vanessa Wrenn as recently as September 9 that stated “Gaston was advised by DPI not to go live.”

School 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.

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

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.

As recently as Monday, September 19, dozens of employees say they are still experiencing issues with their paychecks and are anxious their future checks, W2′s, retirement, and 401Ks will be incorrect.

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

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.

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