Jan 22, 2024 - News

The accounting error roiling Durham Public Schools

Illustration of a fist holding a pencil.

Illustration: Allie Carl/Axios

Some critical workers at Durham Public Schools have not reported for work in recent days after the district took away raises given last year as a result of an accounting error.

  • It's already affected some bus routes around the system.

Why it matters: Many of those DPS workers have already made life choices — like quitting a second job or buying a car — after having the salary for months, Symone Kiddoo, president of the Durham Association of Educators, told Axios.

What happened: In October, DPS issued locally-funded raises for support staff as part of a salary study the school system did, WUNC reported.

  • But earlier this month around 1,300 classified staff workers — including maintenance workers, counselors and grounds and cafeteria staff — received emails saying those raises would be eliminated.
  • The reason: an error in how DPS calculated years of experience within their industry or as a state employee, according to WRAL. The school system also suspended its chief financial officer in response.
  • DPS told Axios it is "engaged in an active investigation regarding the implementation of the salary study" but is not providing any further public statements on the matter.

Threat level: It's unclear when this matter could be resolved, and hundreds of workers gathered last week to express their concerns with administrators.

  • A walk out by more staff could significantly impair the city's school schedule, as many of these workers are in critical roles that keep the school system operating, Kiddoo said.

What's next: The Durham Association of Educators, a union that represents school staff, is not yet calling for a work stoppage and is attending meetings with school administrators to find a resolution to the salary changes.

  • Kiddoo says her organization is asking for payments to be referred to as changes in wages and not "overpayments" so that staff wouldn't have to repay any of the money the raises they received.
  • And it's asking for a seat at the table for a union member as DPS determines next steps.
  • DPS plans to hold a special closed meeting Monday to discuss the payment issues, WRAL reported.

What they're saying: "While we think that talks are moving forward, we are not unwilling to consider using our labor as a way to drive things forward if they start to stall," Kiddoo said.

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