Failure to communicate

Published 9:39 am Tuesday, August 2, 2011

It appears that an article published last week in this newspaper has struck a nerve.

Unfortunately, the nerve in which it was intended to strike either lost its vision or is totally numb.

On the day of the mediation process between Northampton County Public Schools and the Northampton County Board of Commissioners, this newspaper requested and received a public document that revealed $477,255.06 was budgeted by the schools for use in supplemental pay and bonuses.

That document was placed in our hands on Thursday, July 14. After spending a few days absorbing all the numbers within that document, we thought it was fair to ask Northampton County School administrators about the distribution of those supplements/bonuses. We were particularly concerned with one line item in the document that listed only $20,689.56 in salary supplements for classroom teachers. Meanwhile, $444,065.50 was shown set aside for non-classroom supplements.

That low listing for classroom supplements puzzled me. After all, we had penned several articles over the years where Northampton County educational leaders cited the need for additional dollars in supplemental salaries in an effort to attract and retain quality teachers. I’m all for that effort as I totally understand the tough task our local educators tackle each and every year as they attempt to entice good teachers to re-locate to our rural area of the state.

On Wednesday, July 20, we sent a list of questions, concerning the outcome of the mediation process as well as inquiries about the supplements/bonuses, via email to Northampton Schools Superintendent Dr. Eric Bracy. We were informed by Dr. Bracy’s administrative assistant that the best way to reach him was through email.

Included in that list of nine questions was one that asked if the material presented to us at the mediation process was correct. Again, we were trying to figure out the large gap between the monetary figure for classroom and non-classroom supplements.

In all fairness, we wanted Dr. Bracy to reply. I know he’s a busy man with a lot on his plate running a school system, but, to date, there has been no response from him or anyone within the Northampton Public School System.

I purposely had Amanda (VanDerBroek, our reporter that covers Northampton County) wait at least three publication dates between the time we sent the email and when we wound-up publishing the story.

We even went as far as to making two phone calls to Dr. Bracy’s office to ensure he received the July 20 email. Neither of those calls were returned. We sent a follow-up email on Thursday, July 28 in an effort to remind Dr. Bracy that we were still waiting for a response.

We’re still waiting.

As suggested by the comments on our website that the story (“Salaries padded with extras” as published Tuesday, July 26) was not newsworthy, I did not fall off the journalism truck yesterday. I totally understand the need for supplements and understand that the majority of public school systems statewide use them. What we wanted to know, and have yet to discover, is the disparity over the distribution of these salary additions.

It’s our job as reporters to ask questions, especially when it comes to the use of taxpayer dollars. We’re not on a witch hunt – to be fair in this particular issue we have asked or in the process of inquiring of the use of salary supplements within the Bertie, Gates and Hertford County school systems.

Personally, I feel it’s fair to ask why a school system’s Transportation Director receives a $2,600 supplement; a Finance Officer gaining an extra $3,212.46 or School Nurses afforded just over $5,000 in extra pay. Why do Northampton’s top two educational administrators, who combine for annual salaries that approach the $220,000 range, need another $26,000 in bonuses/supplements when the district’s entire army of classroom teachers must split a kitty of $20,689.56.

All we are seeking are answers. In the modern era of communication, we are easily accessible. Our phones still work (252-332-2123 is our main switchboard) and the last time I looked my email was fully operational. Or if you want to do this the old fashioned way, I’ll meet face-to-face in Jackson; you can travel to Ahoskie or we’ll meet in-between somewhere around Rich Square.

Cal Bryant is Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. He can be reached at or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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