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New plan has changed North Carolina principal pay

Chapel Hill High School is a part of Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools, one of the top-ranked school districts in the state.

North Carolina principals are subject to pay changes under a new pay plan implemented this year by the North Carolina General Assembly. 

Under the new plan, principals are paid based on the number of students they are presiding over and the performance of their school — instead of the number of teachers they supervise and years of experience.

Base pay — the set amount principals are paid a year — will be determined by the size of the school. Principals of smaller schools will be paid less, while principals of larger schools will see an increase in pay. Bonuses will be given to principals in higher performing schools or schools with significant growth. 

Katherine Joyce, executive director of N.C. Association of School Administrators, said North Carolina is ranked 50th out of 51, counting the District of Columbia, in the nation in terms of principal compensation.

“That was making it really difficult for us to attract and retain great principals that all of our schools need and deserve,” Joyce said. 

Joyce said school-based administrator pay is more simplified than previous pay structures, and adjustments will need to be made to serve everyone.

Shirley Prince, executive director of North Carolina Principals and Assistant Principals' Association, said the new funding for principals is very much needed, but not all principals are able to benefit from this new system.  

“It is sort of a mixed bag,” she said.

Prince said the plan makes it so principals earlier in their career will see significant increases, while veteran principals may receive little to no raises. 

She said veteran principals are not receiving the same incentives as principals earlier in their careers, and if they don’t see a way for themselves to move forward and earn a higher pay, schools may lose them.

Leanne Winner, director of governmental relations at North Carolina School Boards Association, said there are some principals who will be accepting assistant principal salaries because they pay more than what they would receive as a principal.

"We think there are some significant hurdles that are now in place, and it is creating some inequities within districts and also across the state," she said. 

Joyce said the new plan has been on the books for a year. Her organization hopes experience will be added to the pay structure next year. 

Prince said younger principals have faced pay that is absolutely too low and needed to be rectified significantly, but with the new pay system, there are concerns that principal pay is extremely unpredictable since school performance changes year to year.  

Prince said the plan has created winners and losers.

"I don’t think that was what was intended," she said. "But that is what has happened."


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