School leaders weigh in on new principal pay

School leaders weigh in on new principal pay

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Some Charlotte-Mecklenburg School (CMS) District principals are weighing in on North Carolina's new principal pay scale. Lawmakers wanted to increase principal pay - that was ranked at the bottom - while at the same time making it more performance-based.

Kelly Gwaltney is principal of Garinger High School. Under her leadership, Garinger went from a "D" school to a "C" school and exceeded growth. Gwaltney says she doesn't know what this academic achievement would mean for her pay, but she believes more work needs to be done with the principal pay plan and principals need to speak up.

"Every principal," Gwaltney said. "They should have a voice in their pay, and they need to be able to voice their concerns about that."

Lawmakers wanted principal pay to be more performance-based and use that as an incentive so principals can get the job done.

"That should be part of everyone's pay program," State Representative Craig Horn said. "By the same token, we have to recognize some realities - some facts. We are not going to turn around some of these schools instantly and overnight - there are lots of factors that go into it."

Horn says lawmakers are realizing the plan may need to be tweaked. They realize there are some bumps. Despite the challenges, they are still willing to keep trying until they get it right.

"Fear of failure should never be a deterrent," Horn said. "We need to continue to try new things, new ideas - yes some of them will fail. We will learn from them and move on."

The new pay scale would be harmful to veteran principals. They could see a pay cut of $10,000 or more. Many believe these drastic pay cuts could send effective principals packing and leave the profession.

"We hope that doesn't happen," NC Association of School of School Administrators Executive Director Katherine Joyce said. "Because with our veteran principals - these are people who are the rocks of our community."

Joyce hopes a compromise can be reached.

"We are listening to principals right now to hear what are those tweaks that are needed, so we can identify the right work lift," Joyce said.

Horn realizes this pay scale could deter good people from choosing the profession and encourage effective leaders to give up.

"We've got to do a lot more to attract and retain high quality principals and reward them for effort, but not discourage new people from coming in, not discourage people that are actually putting forth a lot of effort and not getting results. We need to help them with that," Horn said.

Right now veteran principals' pay has not been altered. They have been grandfathered in for the first year of the new pay scale that ends next year. Many hope politicians will revisit the principal pay scale.

"We could extend the grandfather provision," Horn said. "We could rewrite the entire principal pay system. We could do nothing and leave it as is."

State lawmakers meet again in October and again in January.

"Nobody deserves a pay cut," Gwaltney said. "We are all working hard right, so I have confidence legislators will work it out."

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