The State Board of Education (SBE) approved on Thursday a proposal to use federal COVID-19 relief funds to hold principal salaries harmless from decreases caused by new language in the most recent state budget package. This budget provision would have changed the way principal salaries are calculated so that principal pay would be based only on one year of student performance data (2021-2022), rather than the best two out of three years. Since many schools were still recovering from COVID-19 during the 2021-2022 school year, some historically high-performing principals faced losing as much as $18,000 in January 2023 due to the new pay calculation. As a result, SBE members voted in favor of using $4.5 million from the Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) Fund III to provide affected principals with “retention bonuses” that will equal the amount they were expected to lose in the new year.
The vote came a little over a week after State Superintendent Catherine Truitt announced her plan to address these principal pay concerns by planning to utilize ESSER III funds to compensate state principals who would have otherwise been negatively affected by the policy change. During the SBE’s September monthly meeting, Supt. Truitt noted the state legislature was “willing to consider” holding principal pay harmless, but she had been told they could not do so until at least December, and she did not want NC principals having to worry about a potential pay cut in the new year. During her remarks on Thursday, Supt. Truitt also thanked the 2022 NC Principal of the Year, Patrick Greene, for bringing up the principal pay issue during the August SBE meeting. Truitt ended her comments by noting her plans “to leverage the expertise of our principals to determine whether the long session is an opportunity to revisit the entire [principal] compensation model.”