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Guilford educators association wants better pay, elected officials to 'fill this void'
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Guilford educators association wants better pay, elected officials to 'fill this void'

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GREENSBORO — The Guilford County Association of Educators on Tuesday called for a $15-an-hour minimum wage for hourly school employees as well as a 5% pay increase for all school employees.

Kenya Donaldson, the association’s president-elect, said at a news conference that in 2018 the General Assembly decided that state employees deserved a $15-an-hour “living” wage, but exempted school workers.

Superintendent Sharon Contreras included a $15-an-hour minimum wage for school cafeteria workers and bus drivers in her proposed request to county commissioners, which she shared with the Guilford County Board of Education on Tuesday. And she proposed more than $10 million in increased salary supplements for Guilford County Schools teachers.

Contreras acknowledged that her budget did not include a $15-an-hour minimum wage for other hourly employees, but said she expected to propose asking the Guilford County Board of Commissioners for the money in the following year.

The school board is expected to hold a budget hearing and then vote on a request to county commissioners on May 11.

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In turn, commissioners are expected to hold a public hearing on June 3 and adopt a budget on June 17.

“GCAE stands in support of Contreras’ for our (School Nutrition Staff) workers, for our bus drivers, but that still is short of what we need,” Donaldson said at the news conference Tuesday. “We need continued support for all our classified staff. And we are calling on our state and our county commissioners to fill this void.”

Donaldson, a fifth-grade teacher at Brooks Global Studies in Greensboro, will assume leadership of the association on July 1 after being elected earlier this month. She said GCAE’s demands for a $15-an-hour minimum wage and 5% increase across the board line up with the North Carolina Association of Educators’ demands as well.

During Tuesday’s news conference, current association president Todd Warren pointed out that newly elected commissioner Mary Beth Murphy is also a Guilford County Schools teacher.

“We couldn’t be prouder to have a teacher voice, an educator voice willing to represent all of us on the board of commissioners,” Warren said. “That said, they still have hard choices to make and difficult discussions to have and we are going to be there every step of the way ... We are not going to quit with the county, we are going to move to the state and we are going to get a budget that is fair and that is right and that puts us on the right track for education in North Carolina. “

Michael Pelham, a cook at Dudley High School and father of four, was among the Guilford County Schools employees who spoke at the news conference on Tuesday and pushed for better pay.

“Being paid fairly would mean having the ability to pay my rent on time,” he said. “Being paid fairly would mean having the opportunity to take my daughters out on a date and not working a second job for DoorDash.”

Contact Jessie Pounds at 336-373-7002 and follow @JessiePounds on Twitter.

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