Top School Leaders Receive Large Pay Raises

On August 16th, Johnston County school board members held a Convocation at Five County Stadium in Wake County, welcoming teachers to the start of the 2017-18 school year and surprised them with the news they would receive a one percent supplement increase this year.  The supplement was equivalent to a $350 pay raise for a first year teacher.

Those same Johnston County school board members met in secret – in closed session – just 8 days earlier on Aug. 8  to give their four top cabinet members under second year superintendent Dr. Ross Renfrow significant pay raises.  The pay raises were not on the August agenda and were only discussed behind closed doors at the direction of school board attorney Jimmy Lawrence.

No items were listed for discussion on the August 2017 school board agenda for closed session, however the board met behind closed doors to approve pay raises for 4 school administrators.
Crystal Roberts, hired May 1, 2017 as Chief of Communication at $105,000, received a $10,008 pay increase on August 8th, backdated to take effect on July 1, 2017 at $115,008.

Crystal Kimpson Roberts, Chief of Communication and Engagement, who was hired only 3 months earlier on May 1, 2017 at a starting salary of $105,000 was given a $10,008 pay increase – a 9 percent raise – increasing her salary to $115,008.  Roberts had been with Johnston County Schools only 70 workdays before the vote to increase her salary.

Brian Vetrano, Chief of Human Capital, received a 5 percent salary increase – or $5,657.88 more – bringing his yearly pay to $115,008.  That followed an 8.5 percent pay increase he received in 2016.

Dolores Gill, who was promoted to Chief of Staff in 2017 after the retirement of Patrick Jacobs, received a 10 percent salary jump from $103,812 to $115,008, an increase of $11,196.

Deputy Superintendent Dr. Eddie Price received a 14 percent increase or a $15,391.32 raise to $125,004 per year.

The highest increase went to Eddie Price, Deputy Superintendent and the second in charge of the school system.  Price had been making $109,612.68 but was given a 14 percent pay increase – or a $15,391.32 raise – to an annual salary of $125,004.

Instead of making the salaries effective on August 8th, the day of the closed session meeting, the school board voted 5-to-1 to backdate the pay increases to take effect on July 1, 2017.

August 2017 Salary Increases
Crystal Roberts, Chief of Communication
$105,000 to $115,008  (+ $10,008)

Brian Vetrano, Chief of Human Capital
$109,350,12 to $115,008 (+ $5,657.88)

Dolores Gill, Chief of Staff
$103,812 to $115,008 (+ $11,196)

Eddie Price, Deputy Superintendent
$109,612.68 to $125,004 (+ $15,391.32)

Board Chairman Defends Raises
Mike Wooten, Chairman of the Johnston County School Board, defended the increases saying Dr. Renfrow had decreased the size of his senior cabinet from 8 to four officials which saved $297,000 in annual salaries. Wooten said the 4 personnel have the same responsibilities as the 8 former cabinet members and because of their increased duties deserved more pay.

Wooten had no problem with Roberts $10,008 pay raise even though she had been on the job only 70 days.  There was no suggestions the 4 employees had to work more than 40 hours each week.

Superintendent Dr. Ross Renfrow said the 4 officials who received pay increases work more and deserve more.

Superintendent: Educators Should Make Millions
Superintendent Dr. Ross Renfrow also defended the pay hikes claiming the four employees in his cabinet are doing more work.  “When you downsize there is more work for everybody. When you look at salaries compared to 9 or 10 years ago, I felt it was in the best interest to compensate them more. They are still making less than the folks were 10 years ago.”

Renfrow was referring to the 2007-08 school year, when former Superintendent Dr. Anthony Parker made $260,368 that year. Other cabinet members earned between $106,744 and $174,152.

Dr. Renfrow said there was no intent to keep the salary increases quiet. He said the decision to discuss the increases in closed session was made by Attorney Jimmy Lawrence.  “Based on our board attorney this should go to the board in closed session.”

Renfrow said he was not concerned about the message the high salary increases to the top four personnel would send to other school employees, including first year teachers at the Convocation who learned about their $350 average pay raise.

“I would break it down even further than that. There needs to be a bigger commitment at a federal, state and local level to fund all educators – certified and classified –  at a greater capacity.”

“Our society has the priorities mixed up. You can make millions as professional athletes. (The) people making millions should be local law enforcement, firefighters, first responders and educators,” Dr. Renfrow said in defense of the administrators raises.

Renfrow said the four top educators hold the “key to the future” of thousands of Johnston County Schools children and “a lot is at stake.”

He defended Roberts salary hike after only 3 months on the job. “I am all about consistency. You will write it from your viewpoint. Eddie (Price) deserves more. I felt it prudent to Brian (Vetrano), Crystal (Roberts) and Deloris (Gill) they all make the same amount.”

The total raises amount to $42,252.32, which would nearly pay for one new teaching position. The average salary of a teacher in North Carolina is $47,783 or about $10,000 less than the national average.

One Board Members Votes Against Raises
The decision to give the raises was not unanimous. Newly elected school board member Ronald Johnson was the only board member to vote against the raises, which passed in a 5-to-1 vote.

“I cannot in good conscience support raises for the highest paid employees of Johnston County Schools,” Johnson told WTSB News and JoCoReport.com. “I am personally unable to justify top paid employees raises while teachers and classified staff go underpaid and while our classrooms remain underfunded.”

“I do not want to devalue the employees tapped to receive these raises, however, I strongly believe the money should be allocated in a way that will have a more direct impact on our students,” Johnson said.

“The students and teachers of Johnston County Schools are my top priority. These raises do not enhance the academic experience of our students, nor do they help to adequately compensate the teachers and staff who work directly with our students day in and day out,” Johnson explained.

Five members did vote for the raise: Todd Sutton, Chairman Mike Wooten, Vice Chair Dorothy Johnson, Dr. Peggy Smith and Butler Hall. Teresa Grant was not present at the meeting.

Ex-School Board Member: Teachers Should Be First
Former Johnston County School Board member and retired County Commissioner DeVan Barbour, a watchdog of taxpayer’s money while in office, was surprised when he learned of the pay raises.  “Where did the money come from? I have to question how they found that pot of money. Did they get permission from county commissioners?”

Former school board member and retired vice chairman of the Johnston County Board of Commissioners DeVan Barbour wants to know where the $42,252 came from in the 2017-18 school budget to increase the administrators salaries and why the money was not earmarked for classroom teachers. JoCoReport.com File Photo

“I think it sends a bad signal (to teachers).  We’ve been hearing for years supplements lag behind adjacent counties. You want to remain as competitive as you can. The idea has to focus on teachers first, not administrators. The (administrators) are not leaving because pay is not competitive. We do have teachers leaving because pay is not competitive. When you have limited funds you should use them to address the problems you are facing and that is teachers leaving because of pay.”

“Have you heard of any administrator leaving for another job to get more money? They may be leaving wanting to be a superintendent somewhere but not for more money.  It sends a bad signal to county teachers,” Barbour said.

Statistics back Barbour’s concerns.

In Johnston County, the teacher turnover rate was 14 percent for the 2015-2016 school year. The majority of teachers who quit, 52 percent, left Johnston County to go to Wake County because of higher salaries and supplements.

No top level cabinet official left Johnston County Schools for Wake County Schools last year. 

School board member Todd Sutton of Kenly said he supported the pay raises for the 4 top administrators but admits more needs to be done for classroom teachers.

Sutton Says Cabinet Members Work 24 Hours Day
School board member Todd Sutton of Kenly supported the 4 cabinet members salary increases, but admitted teachers should get paid more.  “We all feel that teachers should be paid more than they currently are. The only piece we have control over is supplements. The state mandates their pay. We were excited to give them another 1 percent raise, which does move the budget $1.8 to $1.9 million in the supplement raise.”

Sutton defended the four cabinet members raises saying, “They work practically 24 hours a day.”

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  • Bobby Harper

    up the tax payers rear again

    • Gayle Sorcic

      Absolutely!!!!

  • John Radford

    What about the boots on the ground?

  • Windage-n-Elevation

    Really? And this is what the tax increases are for?

  • Vickie Durham

    This is getting ridiculous! Why not spend the money on teachers! Taxpayers getting royally screwed again (but what else is new).

  • Miles Coleman

    Wow! must be nice!

  • Beth Thomas

    Thumbs up to Ronald Johnson!! Glad he had the courage to vote as he did. His thoughts on this subject are correct. The teachers, others staff, and students surely need the money. 👍

  • saywhat

    As always the people that actually do the hard labor in the classroom get the big blow off! Kinda like Walmart where the CEOs are filthy rich and the people that work in the store are on food stamps.What a joke.

    • Gayle Sorcic

      YELP

  • Roy Jones

    To all the school board members who was given hard earned money for you campaign to better wages for all teachers and working school staff. Don’t come telling us the lies any more and we will not give you any of our hard earned money to support your lies. I did not support Mr. Johnson but he’s got my money, support and vote. Good luck to all.

  • Gayle Sorcic

    How about the employees that get up at 4 am to drive a bus before they start their daily job duties? Then get home at dark! The person that made these discussions should be the first to go!!

  • Reality

    Watch them whine come budget time how they need more money. I sure hope the stewards of MY tax dollars are listening.

  • Shirley Earp Zabriskie

    Johnson County Administeation is a selfish disgrace who do not care about their teachers! Selfish! Like another county I know of. No one considers the hours and personal expense teachers are sacrificing. SHAME!

  • Roger Walker

    More money, more money, more money. Why didn’t these educators go to Wall Street if money is their chief aim in life?

  • John Radford

    Print this story. Highlight the names that concern you. Take it with you the next time you vote.

  • Common Sense

    Oh JoCo, you’re a Joke-O. You knew before the budget was finalized that the admin was ‘downsizing’ so there’s no excuse for brand new hires to get raises for jobs that you already knew they’d be doing. Typical though—look at the huge gap in any dept in JoCo between top dogs and the unappreciated teachers and other essential worker bees—that gap just keeps getting further apart as the rich keep getting richer… And all this talk about admin salary not being up to par with other areas and having to take on more responsibility? Pffft!! Umm, reality check!! Measley cost of living “raises” every once in a while barely helps out with raising gas and grocery prices. But we all know that the top dogs need extra $ to be seen at the country club, to drive a fancy car, to live in a high end neighborhood.
    Kudos to Ron Johnson for using some common sense!!!

  • Name not important

    when did we become a nation that didn’t want people to get pay raises when earned. These people are saving the county money by doing multiple jobs. Let’s look at the math. They let four people go. -297,000. They gave their jobs to 4 people at the cost of 42k.

    Anyone with half a brain realizes that leaves 250k in the budget to hire more teachers.

    One can not expect to keep good employees no matter what you pay them if you increase their workload without further compensation.

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  • Bobby Harper

    up the tax payers rear again

    • Gayle Sorcic

      Absolutely!!!!

  • John Radford

    What about the boots on the ground?

  • Windage-n-Elevation

    Really? And this is what the tax increases are for?

  • Vickie Durham

    This is getting ridiculous! Why not spend the money on teachers! Taxpayers getting royally screwed again (but what else is new).

  • Miles Coleman

    Wow! must be nice!

  • Beth Thomas

    Thumbs up to Ronald Johnson!! Glad he had the courage to vote as he did. His thoughts on this subject are correct. The teachers, others staff, and students surely need the money. 👍

  • saywhat

    As always the people that actually do the hard labor in the classroom get the big blow off! Kinda like Walmart where the CEOs are filthy rich and the people that work in the store are on food stamps.What a joke.

    • Gayle Sorcic

      YELP

  • Roy Jones

    To all the school board members who was given hard earned money for you campaign to better wages for all teachers and working school staff. Don’t come telling us the lies any more and we will not give you any of our hard earned money to support your lies. I did not support Mr. Johnson but he’s got my money, support and vote. Good luck to all.

  • Gayle Sorcic

    How about the employees that get up at 4 am to drive a bus before they start their daily job duties? Then get home at dark! The person that made these discussions should be the first to go!!

  • Reality

    Watch them whine come budget time how they need more money. I sure hope the stewards of MY tax dollars are listening.

  • Shirley Earp Zabriskie

    Johnson County Administeation is a selfish disgrace who do not care about their teachers! Selfish! Like another county I know of. No one considers the hours and personal expense teachers are sacrificing. SHAME!

  • Roger Walker

    More money, more money, more money. Why didn’t these educators go to Wall Street if money is their chief aim in life?

  • John Radford

    Print this story. Highlight the names that concern you. Take it with you the next time you vote.

  • Common Sense

    Oh JoCo, you’re a Joke-O. You knew before the budget was finalized that the admin was ‘downsizing’ so there’s no excuse for brand new hires to get raises for jobs that you already knew they’d be doing. Typical though—look at the huge gap in any dept in JoCo between top dogs and the unappreciated teachers and other essential worker bees—that gap just keeps getting further apart as the rich keep getting richer… And all this talk about admin salary not being up to par with other areas and having to take on more responsibility? Pffft!! Umm, reality check!! Measley cost of living “raises” every once in a while barely helps out with raising gas and grocery prices. But we all know that the top dogs need extra $ to be seen at the country club, to drive a fancy car, to live in a high end neighborhood.
    Kudos to Ron Johnson for using some common sense!!!

  • Name not important

    when did we become a nation that didn’t want people to get pay raises when earned. These people are saving the county money by doing multiple jobs. Let’s look at the math. They let four people go. -297,000. They gave their jobs to 4 people at the cost of 42k.

    Anyone with half a brain realizes that leaves 250k in the budget to hire more teachers.

    One can not expect to keep good employees no matter what you pay them if you increase their workload without further compensation.