Stanly County Schools considers contract review with ESS

Board discusses potential changes to ESS contract and announces pay raises following state budget approval

ALBEMARLE — The Stanly County Schools Board of Education convened Tuesday, Oct. 3, with a limited number of reports presented to the board. 

The board received several updates on committee reports, particularly from the facility and finance committees. 

The Facility Committee provided the first update. 

“We met with Albemarle Council to discuss future growth plans and development in the surrounding areas,” said Vice Chair Carla Poplin. “The meeting was productive in terms of discussion, but there were some concerns.” 

Poplin expressed concerns about potential plans to add nearly 4,000 homes in Albemarle and the surrounding area. 

Given the issue of aging facilities, SCS is exploring ways to address the challenges associated with growth. 

“We’re going to continue those meetings and we do have plans to meet with the municipalities from other cities and speak as part of our future facility plans,” Poplin said. 

The Finance Committee reported that they had postponed the contract review for ESS until their next work session. 

“ESS is a private company that provides the school system with substitute teachers and teacher assistants,” said board member Dustin Lisk. “It was a contract entered into in late 2018 by the former board and superintendent at that time and it had a five-year term on it with a renewal every year. That term is now up. 

“Some of the things that we are reviewing is moving on from ESS where we hire our own teacher assistants that work for the school system. Teacher assistants that can drive buses which is part of the agreement when you come on as a teacher assistant. We also need to look, as a committee, the non-solicit in the agreement. It was a favorable, one-sided contract where we could not hire ESS employees without their written permission, but they could take our employees. That is seemingly what happened. Part of the contract was using our resources. Our social media, our marketing resources, having links on our website and essentially using a lot of our taxpayer dollars to do their private recruitment efforts.” 

Lisk also explained that while ESS teacher assistants earn more at a base rate of $16.72 an hour compared to SCS teacher assistants at $16.39 an hour, when you factor in pension and added healthcare, the total compensation amounts to about $26.45 per hour. 

Finally, the district can now proceed with their planned pay raises thanks to the state budget being passed. 

“We now have a legal budget that has been approved from the state,” said Chief Financial Officer Terry Dudney. “I’ve also received documentation on how to implement pay raises and how the allotments will be coming down within the next week.” 

“All our employees understood that raises were coming and were notified,” Lisk said. “Now, as of October 2, that is funded.” 

The Stanly County Schools Board of Education will hold its next meeting Nov. 7.