N.C. Association of Educators file lawsuit against Gaston County Public Schools over payroll issues

Tamika Walker Kelly

The N.C. Association of Educators (NCAE) has filed a lawsuit against the Gaston County Board of Education over payroll issues that began in early 2022 after the county switched to Oracle, a third-party vendor, to manage and process the district’s payroll.

Since the switch, Gaston County Public Schools (GCPS) employees have complained about discrepancies in pay and retirement and other deductions. Employees have, for example, been underpaid, pre-tax funds haven’t been deducted from checks and workers paid more than their salary and taxed have been asked to repay the money without any accounting, the NCAE said in press release.

“Our members have been greatly affected by this problem and several conversations have taken place with the Gaston County Payroll Department and our attorneys,” said Tamika Walker Kelly, president of the NCAE. “The district had more than a year to figure out a solution and make the hardworking employees of Gaston County Public Schools whole. We know with new systems come quirks, and we feel we’ve given them enough time to resolve this issue. We’ve been more than patient.”

Policy Watch was unable to reach Gaston County Board of Education Chairman Jeff Ramsey for comment on Wednesday.

The Gaston Gazette reported Tuesday that GCPS teachers Elisabeth Haywood and Bobbie Cavnar, a former Gaston County Teacher of the Year, are also plaintiffs in the lawsuit. Haywood alleges that she was overpaid by $17,000 and was forced to pay taxes on the money.

Policy Watch spoke with Cavnar in September about the problems with the payroll system. He said then that his paystub showed $1,600 worth of unexplained deductions, which forced he and his wife to dip into their savings to pay bills.

Bobbie Cavnar in 2018 interview with NC Policy Watch. (Photo:Clayton Henkel)

“We didn’t have to default on anything but there are plenty of teachers who could not weather a month without pay or a $1,500 deduction,” Cavnar said. “We’ve heard stories from teachers who’ve had to help each other out by buying things like grocery gift cards and things like that to kind of weather through.”

Gaston and New Hanover county schools were the first districts among 10 scheduled to pilot the new payroll systems managed by Cherry Road Technologies and Oracle (Gaston) and Tyler Technologies for Munis (New Hanover).

The “modern” systems were mandated by the General Assembly in 2016 with the passage of the School Business Systems Modernization (SBSM) law intended to help districts replace “discontinued and obsolete” systems such as IBM’s AS/400. Eventually, all 115 school districts are expected to upgrade systems for managing financial and payroll information, human resources information and capital and repairs and renovations planning information.

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N.C. Association of Educators file lawsuit against Gaston County Public Schools over payroll issues