$22,000 DHHS Raises: An Elementary School Principal Responds

Response has been overwhelming to Sarah Ovaska’s story where she broke the news of the huge raises given to 24 year old staffers in Gov McCrory’s Department of Health and Human Services. One comment from Peggy Raymes, an elementary school principal, to the post yesterday particularly stood out and I thought I would post it:

Dear Governor McCrory,

I am the principal at Margaret Willis Elementary school in Cumberland County. I have a dedicated staff that has been working “on their own time” this summer to be ready for our boys and girls next week. They have not been paid to attend training or prepare classrooms during their ” vacation.” They do this because they are dedicated professionals who see the big picture, when it comes to the impact and the value of public education, on our future. I am concerned that the 2 young men referenced in this report have been awarded substantial pay increases because of their job performance. I am extremely discouraged that these 2 young men were given those pay increases when I have teachers in my building who have been working for 8 years, and are still only receiving a ” 3rd year ” teacher salary. I am struggling to understand what type of job performance constitutes a 37% salary increase, when the students at my school, (with a free and reduced lunch population of 80%), have made high academic growth for the past 5 years on our NC End of Grade tests. Would that type of job performance not warrant some type of salary increase? As a veteran educator with 30 years of experience, and as a Commissioner from Stedman, N.C. I would respectfully like to request the opportunity to sit down and talk with you, Governor; but what I would really like to happen, is for you and my legislators to come and spend one day at Margaret Willis Elementary School, or any public school in NC, for that matter. I believe that after that encounter you would be able to find alternative measures for balancing the state budget. I do not believe you are the kind of man who would sacrifice the future of the children of our state, but I do believe that you are listening to advisors who do not have a clear picture of the benefits of a sound and free public education; nor do they understand the impact their recent decisions are having on our schools, and ultimately the future of our state. So, my question, Governor McCrory….do we give 37% pay increases to young men who worked for your campaign, or do we pay the teachers in North Carolina a fair wage? I look forward to hearing from you.


Peggy Raymes


Margaret Willis Elementary School


  1. Alan

    August 16, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    What? No comment from ‘LayintheSmakDown’, the artist formally known as Doogie?

  2. Alex

    August 16, 2013 at 10:49 pm

    These are some of the salaries that Governor Bev Perdue paid to some of her staffers several years ago . What McCrory is paying is not really out of line with prior Democratic administrations at all. When compared to teachers however, many professions look completely out of line when strictly comparing responsibilities. Why would a baseball player ever be worth $158,000 per game and be making more in a day than a teacher for six years ? Many young technology graduates are making $90-100,000 a year or two out of school. Unfortunately, salaries are market driven and often higher when there are no long term benefits or pensions involved. It’s really a waste of time trying to make these comparisons when the real answer is to shrink the size and scope of both state and federal governments so there would be more money for education.

    Britt Cobb, chief of staff, $164,572

    Al Delia, policy director, $160,000

    William McLaughlin, deputy chief of staff, $154,000

    Don Hobart, special adviser to the governor, $154,000

    Andy Willis, senior assistant for governmental affairs, $153,000

    Eddie Speas, chief legal counsel, $150,000

    Bev Perdue, governor, $139,590

    Pearse Edwards, special adviser for communications and policy, $136,000

    Howard Lee, director of the Education Cabinet, $130,000

    Joel Thomas, special assistant to the governor, $120,000

    Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2011/02/27/1017049/in-tight-times-a-full-staff.html#storylink=cpy

  3. Gene Hoglan

    August 16, 2013 at 11:40 pm

    Good luck Ms. Raymes with getting Mayor McCheese to take the time out of his busy fundraising and Youtube video production schedule to pop by your school, but I have a feeling all you’ll get is a smug grin, a plate of cookies, and a note telling you to get back to your needlepoint and let the men handle the big decisions.

  4. Betty J

    August 17, 2013 at 9:48 am

    Alex, I think you missed the point. The point is that not only did McCrory hire his supporters for high paying jobs (which happens with any new political elect), after talking about the importance of cutting the budget and no raises, HE GAVE EXORBITANT RAISES TO HIS SUPPORTERS! How can you even begin to defend that? What possible contribution did they make to earn a $22,000 to $28,000 raise after only 3 months in office?????? How can you say cut the budget and then do this? State workers have had frozen salaries for 8 years! Why would you not reward the people who have stayed on the job and worked hard for 8 years before you give a raise to someone on staff for 3 months? or even a year? We need a new Governor and Legislature.

  5. Michelle

    August 17, 2013 at 1:37 pm

    Thank you for writing this. As a mother and as a NC teacher, I am astounded by the actions of the McCrory administration, and I’d love some answers and justification for this. What possible rational explanation can there be for these raises when teachers, who work directly with children every day, have not seen even basic cost-of-living increases in years? This is not a partisan issue, Alex. If, as we are constantly told, we all need to do less with more in 2013, the economy is tough, and we should all be grateful to have any job, how can there possibly be money for this?

  6. Alex

    August 17, 2013 at 4:46 pm

    It’s very simple Betty. We’re only talking a small number of staff here, and the total effect on the budget is almost nothing. I agree the salaries are probably too high and always have been, but trying to give an overall raise to all state employees and teachers in a tight budget is another issue because of the large number of people involved. Many of these folks were initially being paid very low salaries by his campaign funds,so after the election there was a budget available for his entire staff which allowed for an adjustment of salaries.I may be wrong but I don’t think the total staff budget was any more than previous administrations.

  7. ML

    August 17, 2013 at 4:59 pm

    So budget cuts are ok and demanded by the repubs for EVERYTHING except their own personal salaries.

  8. Dylan

    August 17, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    If NC teachers are so unhappy with their pay then they should move to a state that pays better money.
    If they were for example working in a company for $40K but knew they could get $70K doing the same job somewhere else…they would clearly not stay and get paid less.

    Complaining about politicians is also hugely pointless since (generally) politicians have no moral fibre and lack any form of integrity. When people are given power they appear to orient everything to serve themselves and those that ‘support’ them.

    Stop complaining. Take action!

  9. Shelia

    August 17, 2013 at 10:15 pm

    Dylan you have no clue as to the remark you are making, when you have invested 20 yrs toward your retirement in a state you cant just pick up and move to another one.

  10. Elizabeth

    August 17, 2013 at 10:47 pm

    Dylan, “move to another state” isn’t a real solution to the problem. “Politicians will be politicians” isn’t either. Changes should be made to correct the problem without forcing citizens to flee the state. Asking someone to completely uproot their family for fair compensation isn’t cool. It’s not that easy for most people, especially when they’ve become invested in the lives of the children and families with which they work. This isn’t a dig at you, Dylan. You seem like you’re on the side of justice. :)

    And Alex, you’re right, the cumulative effect of the staffers’ raises wouldn’t even touch what would be needed to aptly pay educators. There are two things that should be said about that though. One, it’s the principle of the thing. At least TRY to look like you’re not as crooked as you are to spare our feelings about the decisions you get to make that directly affect us. Two, if you’re trying to get out of debt, you should look at EVERY expense. Don’t tell me you’re trying to fix the budget if you’re giving ridiculous raises to staffers.

  11. Jennifer

    August 17, 2013 at 11:25 pm

    Dylan: Packing up and moving is not an option for everyone. You must consider that many teachers are not single and have other family members that would be affected by moving and seeking higher teacher pay in another state. I love NC and have no desire to move. I also love my job, but when it gets continually more difficult to make ends meet, especially as a single mom of a special needs child, seeking other employment may no longer be an option but a must.

  12. Bryan

    August 18, 2013 at 12:05 am

    I noticed no one is mentioning anything about Obama doing the same thing when he got reelected. Joe Biden makes over $231,000 a year? For what? They have created no jobs, added more and more debt, and weakened national security. What?! They scratch each other’s backs on both sides of the aisle?! How about that? Also, why didn’t she write to Bev Purdue when they didn’t get raises 2 and 3 years ago? You know since she is so concerned about her teachers pay. Why wait until now? I think all members of congress should have pay freezes and make the national average. I also believe in small government, which would also free up money. I wonder is it because what he is doing is wrong, or is it because he’s a Republican?

  13. Michael Akers

    August 18, 2013 at 2:53 am

    I’m a Republican because on some very big issues, I find their stance more palatable than the alternative. But I was a public elementary school principal in Florida for twenty-seven years. What Republicans are doing here in Florida, and apparently elsewhere, is attempting to put public education out of business. They would never admit it in public, but they are very serious about it in private. This, combined with the fact that education makes such an easy target for the ambitious but weak-minded, has put us in a precarious position. Most of the great accomplishments in this country were the product of someone who received a public education. Our system of free public education is one of the reasons we are a great country. That isn’t to say that schools don’t have grave problems. Interestingly, the worst problem, students who don’t behave because they know they don’t have to, is something that can be laid at the feet of the very knaves who criticize educators, and who sit in positions of authority and who make laws. They have constructed a society that tolerates bad behavior from everyone, because it’s afraid to do otherwise. Principals have been taught by timid, moral cowards in the form of school board members, city officials, superintendents, and their minions, to blame teachers for their students’ bad behavior. Yet they provide no support for fear for their own jobs. There is a big problem in education. Maybe it would be nice to blame teachers for it because they’re easy to pick on. Besides it diverts public opinion away from the rapacious, venal, moral bankrupts from both parties who are the real villains. In 2005, my school received the National Blue Ribbon School Award, the highest award a school can receive. It did this with a free and reduced lunch population above sixty percent. My teachers would tell you, and told many others, that a significant part of our success came because they didn’t have to worry about discipline. This was because for twenty-seven years I fought with the governor’s office, the education commissioner’s office, the mayors office, the city council, the school board, the superintendents, the bureaucracy, and the parents to make my schools a safe and orderly place for teachers to teach and students to learn, and where everyone was treated the same. It wasn’t perfect, but it was worth the fight. I bring this up because I am not some bleeding heart educator, whom the Republicans can dismiss; and I’m not some private-sector outsider that doesn’t understand what makes schools work, whom the Democrats can dismiss. Worst of all I can see right through the emperor’s new clothes. It is a horrifying sight. If anyone does drop in, Ms. Raymes, have plenty of disinfectant on hand for when they leave.

  14. Alex

    August 18, 2013 at 8:43 am

    I don’t think the budget was cut ML !

  15. Susan

    August 18, 2013 at 10:20 am

    Dylan, Taking action does not necessarily mean that I sell my home, uproot my children, and move to a different state. However, what you call “complaining” is the voice of many that are speaking out against what we feel is an injustice. While those in the Governor’s office receive a raise so “they can live,” I am living on a budget that get stricter and stricter each year. With increase cost in benefits and no raise, my bring home pay this year is less than the previous year. As an educator, I am currently looking for a second job so “I can live.”

    Alex, Yes there were cuts to education…and we are feeling it at the local level. Funds that were used to purchase technology and other resources for the students in our system have now been reallocated to pay teacher assistant salaries…otherwise we would lose those positions due to the current budget. Those teacher assistants have also seen a cut in their number of hours per day. This affects programs, resources, and classrooms at the school level.

  16. Michael Akers

    August 18, 2013 at 11:11 am

    Alex, everything you said above is probably true, but it was, nonetheless, bad form and bad judgment on the part of the Governor. As a Republican, I have great disdain for people who sully our image with this sort of transparent arrogance and contempt for the public they ostensibly serve. In fact, since contempt of court, and contempt of congress are dealt with so harshly and arbitrarily, so too, should contempt of the public by public servants. I use the term servants since it is the commonly accepted term for these people and the more accurate terminology either would not get printed or would drive away the genteel spirits.

  17. Cindy Kyles

    August 18, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Dylan, you must be a single man who can just pick up and move anywhere you want to, at the drop of a hat, with no responsibilities such as family, real estate, church commitments, and dedication to school and students that you teach. The bigger issue here is that no one should HAVE to leave the place they call home, their family, their church, their long term medical providers, the school they are established at, and may have taught at for several years, (tenure)? etc., to go live in a completely different part of the country, where they and their children may not even enjoy living. The quality and dedication of our teachers, make an enormous impact on the quality of the education our children receive. The bottom line is that they should be more highly regarded, respected, and compensated than they have been for many years. It is shameful and ridiculous that they have to struggle to get by on the salary provided to them, when they give so much of themselves to ensure that their students get the best education they can provide, with the limited resources they may have in their classrooms. I know that most teachers even purchase some things for their classrooms/students, out of their own pocket, because they care that much. The notion that teachers who are not compensated properly should just pick up and prance across the country to start over elsewhere, is reckless and ridiculous, at best.

  18. Nikki

    August 18, 2013 at 1:05 pm

    Dylan, that’s just what’s happening, dear! Great, experienced, dedicated NC teachers are packing up their bags and heading out. This move does not make them happy, because they have committed lots of time and energy into building NC education and its students. Many have begun raising families here or have established friendships, positive reputations, and personal connections in NC. But they are leaving. And what they are leaving behind are children who need quality and committed teachers. Teachers have been angered and deeply saddened by this legislation- not only for themselves and their families, but for the students’ futures!! Think about your comment: if all fed-up teachers left NC, what would the NC schools look like? What will Peggy Raymes school look like if all the teachers moved out of the state?

  19. Frances Jenkins

    August 18, 2013 at 10:50 pm

    Oh the tangle web we weaver and you seek to deceive. Your purpose is to destroy all the leaders of the Republican Party. You will tell any falsehood to do so. Just ask Goodmon your next path of action. This one is losing steam.

  20. ncborn

    August 19, 2013 at 9:14 am

    Alex: The average age of the Perdue staffers that you list is around 60.

  21. emd

    August 19, 2013 at 11:57 am

    280—total number of employees at HHS who received raises after the March 8 memo from Governor McCrory directing agencies to hold the line on salary increases (“Hefty raises at DHHS raise question of qualifications,” WRAL-TV, August 16, 2013)

    Hypocrisy much?

  22. Alex

    August 19, 2013 at 12:08 pm

    That’s right ncborn— over the hill political hacks who were looking for a big payday before they retired ! What can I say !

  23. Hattie

    August 19, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    Principal Raymes is to be commended for speaking out on behalf of her teachers. With her as their leader, no wonder they’ve made such progress. As for Gov. McCrory and his cronies, let’s (just) call it what it is: selfishness, greed, power-mongering, and the height of hypocrisy.

    Michael Akers is absolutely correct: there is a concerted effort by most Republicans nationwide to dismantle public education. FL and NC seems to have taken the lead in this effort, but Americans all over are countering these attacks on our right to free, adequate public education as guaranteed by the Constitution of the US.

    I applaud you for the work you did as an administrator in FL for the good of children and public education. I am a retired educator and I concur with everything you said in your piece above. In my opinion, until we are truly partners-in-education, with the parents really, truly sharing in the accountability and responsibility for their children’s education, we will continue this downward spiral to self-destruction, not just in the schools, but in society, in general. In fact, it seems like we’re there – I can’t imagine what “worse” would look like.

    Thank you for your courage and persistence.

  24. Hattie

    August 19, 2013 at 9:55 pm

    *FL and NC seem to have taken the lead…

  25. Rob

    August 19, 2013 at 11:26 pm

    My wife was a teacher. Our combined salary got us into our first house. But when we bought our second house I made one of my few wise decisions at 33 years old to buy a house that didn’t need her salary to pay for (what a novel idea). She quit teaching and raised our children as a stay at home mom (another novel idea). By the Grace of God, She never had to work again. When I lost my job in Texas, and got another job here in North Carolina, without a second thought we packed up everything we owned, and left all my friends and my church and moved. After our children were in college, my wife got a part time job she liked, until she had a stroke 6 months later. I have been taking care of her ever since. Except for the medical bills, we haven’t suffered, since we weren’t relying on her income for our survival. All this because we made a simple decision 40 years ago to live frugally on one income, and not spend more than I made (another novel idea).

  26. Greg

    August 20, 2013 at 4:46 am

    I am very discouraged by this. I moved from Michigan because there were no teaching jobs there. I started my career in North Carolina and I am sad to see how the NC government slashes money towards education. Teachers are having to do more and more with less and less. I know teachers who are having to work two part-time jobs outside of the full-time teaching job to make ends meet. That is not right at all. Now that North Carolina is at the BOTTOM of teacher pay, no teacher will want to come here now. As for you Dylan, I moved from another state, where else am I going to go? With jobs being eliminated here, other states are quickly filling their positions. So “move to another state” is not an option for a lot of people. The legislators need to understand that they need to take care of the education system and teacher pay or else they will be facing another problem real soon, lower population.

  27. Donald

    August 20, 2013 at 12:17 pm

    There would be more money for education if the teachers were not paid for time they do not work through the summers. There would be more money for education if the government education system actually worked for all children. The teachers need to realize that we are in America. You do not have to teach, you can be anything you want to be in America. If your pay is crazy, go get a real 9-5 and improove your economic situation. Private schools don’t seem to have this problem. Its the schools ran by the liberals that are struggling. The department of education is just like the city of Detroit, Fanny Mac and anything else ran by liberal guidance. Other people are tired of funding your fun. Obama has set you all up. You actually thought he was going to solidify the grip that the liberals have on acedemia. I teach at a private school, I have no issues with my pay. The department of education has run it’s course, and your kids are still idiots.

  28. Julessaysme

    August 20, 2013 at 5:45 pm

    Hey, Don, uh, we don’t get paid in the summer. We have our check divided throughout the YEAR. And its Fannie Mae. And uh, are you licensed? And uh, the rest of your stupid is just not worth my right-handed typing finger. Work that out as you please.

  29. Cj

    August 21, 2013 at 4:21 pm

    Donald, you are just as ignorant as can be. I am NOT a teacher, but even I know that they are not paid for time not worked; they have the option to divide their yearly salary for 12 months. It is just appalling to me the lengths this administration has gone to put NC at the bottom of EVERYthing. Both my mother and my sister are educators and I have heard the horror stories of not only the pay, but of the decline of the education system as a whole. Of course private schools do not have this problem because the parents are paying thousands of dollars a yr for their children’s education, money that MANY of North Carolinians cannot afford to pay for education. The way the Republicans are going, public school will no longer be free and will be a money making machine just like everything else in this society. Apparently Republicans do not think that our children are our future.

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