PSRC school board approves bonuses, raises for Child Nutrition substitutes

Nov. 10—LUMBERTON — Public Schools of Robeson County school board members approved Tuesday sign-on bonuses for kindergarten through grade six teachers in "hard to staff" areas and raised the hourly pay of Child Nutrition substitutes to $13 per hour.

Board members approved a $3,000 sign-on bonus for certified teachers in kindergarten through grade six programs including math, science, English language arts, Exceptional Children and English language learners.

The programs are considered "hard to staff areas," said Erica Setzer, PSRC's chief Finance officer.

The bonus will be paid out over a three-year period at $1,000 per year, she said.

"It is the responsibility of the employee to repay if they do not stay for the entire three years," Setzer said.

"I think that's a good idea in terms of recruitment and retention," said Terry Locklear, a school board member.

Through the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction's decision to allocate more funding from federal Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief Funds to North Carolina school districts, PSRC has received $148,366 to use for retention or recruitment of Child Nutrition staff, Setzer said.

Board members also approved raising the wages of Child Nutrition substitutes from $7.25 per hour to $13 effective immediately.

The raise does not apply to classroom substitutes who are paid $80 per day or $103, which is dependent upon their certifications, Setzer said. The school district can sustain the raises even if ESSER funding runs out.

Also approved were COVID-19 stipends for employees up to $500. Every employee who qualified for June stipends will also qualify for the next round.

Bus drivers that are not dual employees can get a $200 bonus in December and a $200 bonus in June, she said. Full-time employees can get $500 in December and $500 in June. The stipends are funded through ESSER Funds.

Setzer said she would contact employees via email on Wednesday concerning wage changes and bonuses.

The state is recommending employees be paid $13 an hour, Setzer said. But, the state has not yet passed a budget.

School board member Dwayne Smith asked about the possibility of approving pay raises for bus drivers that reach $13 per hour at the December board meeting, but Setzer said it is difficult to budget for the raises without a state budget. Educators told The Robesonian in September that bus drivers are paid $12.75 an hour.


School board member Vonta Leach cast the lone vote in opposition to the redistricting map approved by the school board Tuesday.

Some district lines had to be redrawn because of population shifts reflected in census results.

The ideal population in each district is about 14,566, according to Janet Robertson, Rural Transportation Organization planner for Lumber River Council of Governments.

Two districts were more than 9% above and two more were more than 10% above the ideal district population, she said.

Two more districts reflected almost 6% of the population and the others were below 5%.

"We had to move the lines to get everybody closer," she said.

Districts 1 and 2 reflected the most population loss, Robertson said.

Other matters

In other matters, board members also approved continuing with the school district's mask policy, which requires students and staff to wear masks indoors and on buses. Masks are optional outdoors.

Also approved were Policy Section 7000 revisions and adding the literacy platform Newsela as a sole source vendor.

After emerging from closed session, school board members approved appointing Steven Sinclair as the new principal of St. Pauls Middle School and Katrina Locklear as the new principal at Fairmont Middle School. Sinclair will replace Karen Brooks-Floyd and Locklear will replace Tracey Ferguson.

Board members agreed that a public hearing must be set in the future to address a request presented by board member Dwayne Smith and PSRC Athletic Director Jerome Hunt to name Lumberton High School's soccer field after Kenny Simmons, who has served as the soccer coach for more than 25 years.

"The reason that Lumberton has a soccer field is because of Kenny Simmons," Hunt said.

Board attorney Grady Hunt said the school board's policy calls for a public hearing before the decision can be made. No date was set at the meeting for the hearing.

Before closed session, board members shared in a moment of silence for the passing of former educator Sarah McLaurin and Fairmont High School student Makenzie Norton.

Also at the meeting, Board member Brenda Fairley-Ferebee and the Rev. Larry Williams were recognized and presented plaques for support and donations of supplies like Clorox 360 disinfectant to the school district.

Charlene Locklear, PSRC's Child Nutrition director, was also presented with a plaque for her "unwavering support and dedication to PSRC Child Nutrition." Locklear was formerly recognized with the UNC Health Southeastern Community Education & Emergency Support Award for her work to feed children in the district and community.

Board members also presented Stephanie McGirt with a plaque. McGirt teaches science at Pembroke Middle School, and was recognized Tuesday for the honor of being named the District 4 Outstanding Middle School Science Teacher by the N.C. Science Teacher Association.

Reach Jessica Horne at 910-416-5165 or via email at [email protected]