Educators group sues Gaston County Board of Education over payroll issues

After months of payroll issues plaguing teachers in Gaston County, the North Carolina Association of Educators is suing the Gaston County Board of Education.

The NCAE announced the lawsuit Wednesday, saying it represents “countless public-school employees who haven’t been receiving the correct compensation for more than a year.”

According to the lawsuit and Channel 9′s previous reporting, the problems stem from Oracle, a third-party vendor that the county chose to process payroll. The NCAE says “some of the issues have included employees being underpaid, pre-tax funds not being deducted, and some employees being paid more than their salary and taxed but being asked to repay the money.”


One teacher who spoke with Channel 9 in February said she’s been frustrated by the problems and the lack of communication. Savannah Hammond’s regular pay in January 2022 was $3,800 but that jumped to $7,600 in August because of the payroll software issues.

“They have not given me any directions on how I’m supposed to pay it back,” Hammond told Channel 9′s Jonathan Lowe.

Two other plaintiffs are named, and they’re both teachers in the county: Elisabeth Haywood, a fifth-grade teacher at Costner Elementary School, and Bobbie Cavnar, an English teacher at South Point High School who was also named one of the top educators in the nation by the National Education Association Foundation in 2018. Haywood and Cavnar both say they’ve been improperly paid since 2022, and Cavnar says that many other employees come to him for help regarding the payroll situations because they’re “too afraid of reprisal/retaliation to speak out publicly or against [the Board of Education.]”

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The association says Gaston County isn’t the only place where this is happening, but this is the first lawsuit addressing the issue in Gaston County. The NCAE points to legislation by the North Carolina General Assembly regarding school districts’ payroll systems. A statement from the NCAE says the Department of Instruction chose two potential vendors for school districts, “increasing the likelihood of similar payroll issues occurring in other communities in the coming years.”

The lawsuit claims, “The massive upheaval to the payroll system for thousands of Gaston Schools employees was a heavily incentivized elective change authorized under the North Carolina School Business Systems Modernization Act that went into effect in 2017.”

Court documents also include correspondence between Gaston County Schools and DPI officials warning to not go live with the new payroll system. The lawsuit cites State Rep. Kelly Hastings publicly stating that he received hundreds of messages about the payroll issues, adding that “Gaston County had chosen to go live with their new payroll program in January against the recommendations of both DPI and the vendor.”

According to the lawsuit, the NCAE and the two teachers are accusing the district of negligence, taking property without just compensation, and infringement of the inalienable right to earn a living and enjoy the fruits of their own labor.

Channel 9 is reaching out to the Board of Education for a comment on the lawsuit.

This is a developing story, check back for updates.

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