DeKalb Schools works to ‘get it right’ after flawed salary roll-out

School officials say it may cost the Dekalb County school district millions to fix a botched salary schedule rolled out last week that left some teachers with only a 2-cent raise when the schedule took effect.

The change in pay for approximately 16,000 school district employees was supposed to reflect 2.5-percent raises as well as a revised pay schedule. Instead, some who expected large raises got none, while others who expected a small raise received thousands more.

Officials have said the raises were intended to make the district’s salaries more competitive with other area school districts. Now, the confusion and uncertain solution may hurt efforts to hire and retain teachers for the 2019-2020 school year.

Green said the district is working to fix what went wrong. “We expect to be able to turn that around very quickly. I don’t want to be held to a time restriction, but I think within the next month or so. We’ve been able to get underneath the skin of the situation to see where the calculations were incorrect and correct it.”

Green declined to list everything found to be wrong with the new salary schedule, derived from a salary study completed over the summer. He suggested last week that an outside firm would conduct a new salary analysis as district officials mulled an overhaul for the human resources division.

“It historically has been a challenge and we tried to patch it, but I think it needs a total inside-out overhaul,” he said of the human resources division. “We are not satisfied. There is significant change to come.”

It's not clear how much the episode will wind up costing the district, though board members and other officials suggested bringing all employees' pay in line and hiring a new firm to do another salary analysis are expected to contribute to the cost.

District officials also have not determined if employees will keep their new rates of pay or how to adjust those who got too-small raises. Green and members of the board could not address those questions with certainty when reached Tuesday.

While the district's human resources head, Bernice Gregory, resigned last week, the district has not named anyone responsible for the salary problems. Gregory had spent less than a year on the job andtold The Atlanta Journal-Constitution she tried to resign earlier in the month, unrelated to the salary schedule roll-out, but that her resignation was not accepted by Green.

Teachers took to social media to complain about the mistakes earlier in January after the new salary schedule did not reflect the raises they had expected. The verbal assaults were renewed online Jan. 28, after staffers received emails from the Human Capital Management division — human resources’ official name — learning exactly how much they would see on their checks.

DeKalb school board Chairman Michael Erwin said the district is under pressure to fix the salary schedule because this is the time of year when teachers often receive their contracts for the upcoming year, which stipulate their pay.

“The month gives you a couple pay cycles to get it correct,” he said. “And you’re depending on it to be right when you issue out new contracts. It is imperative that you get it right. How secure are you signing a contract when you don’t know your salary’s correct?”

Board member Stan Jester said he’s unsure of how the process will play out, or what steps the district will take to address the matter in a way that is fair for all staff, with the likelihood that some were paid more than they expected.

“He hasn’t given us any reassurances,” he said of Superintendent Steve Green. “They’re going back to the drawing board. I’ve asked for a time frame and I haven’t gotten one.”

School board member Joyce Morley said Tuesday she was skeptical of the quick turn Green expected for the new salary analysis, saying the former human resources chief needed more time — and manpower — than she was given.

“I won’t let them throw Dr. Gregory under the bus,” Morley said. “I’ve said all along that it cannot be done that fast. It should have taken at least nine months. You’ve got a small group of people working to change the salaries of 16,000 people.

“And now you’ve got to make it right.”