WS/FCS Board of Education names new superintendent

Published 10:15 am Wednesday, February 24, 2021

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Board also updates COVID-19 return plan, approves pay increase for custodians

The Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Board of Education has appointed Tricia McManus as the next superintendent for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools. McManus has been leading the district as interim superintendent since November 2020 when Superintendent Dr. Angela Hairston resigned.

WS/FCS Board of Education Chair Malishai Woodbury said, “We need solid, proven, continuous leadership because there is important work happening now that must continue, we don’t have time to wait. I feel Tricia provides just that. We know from experience when a new leader comes into a district there is a year or more of observation, planning, restructuring, and reorganizing. This district has been through that, we have taken a long hard look at our schools, listened to our community and are ready to move forward with plans we have worked on for the past year and a half. Taking the time to search for a new leader, then give them time to learn and understand the system will slow down our plans to improve our underperforming schools, improve literac, and move our students forward. We have a proven, successful leader right here that already knows us well. She’s demonstrated she can take the reins and continue the work so every child can succeed.”

“I am really excited to be given the opportunity to continue leading the district,” McManus said. “This means the work of improving our underperforming schools, increasing literacy outcomes, improving kindergarten readiness and focusing on recruitment and retention of high performing staff can continue. In addition, we can move full speed ahead toward implementing the equity driven components of our strategic plan so that every student experiences a high-quality education in Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools.”

McManus began working as the deputy superintendent for WS/FCS in June of 2020. She led the “Our Safe Return” plan as schools phased back to in-person learning. She also worked with staff and community partners to get as many employees as possible vaccinated even before teachers were “eligible” under state guidelines.

Prior to WS/FCS, McManus was the assistant superintendent for leadership and professional development, and school transformation in the Hillsborough County Schools in Florida since 2016. Before that role, she served as a director and executive director of that district’s leadership development for five years. From 1990 to 2009, McManus spent time in a variety of roles within the district. She served as an elementary teacher, resource teacher, elementary assistant principal and then principal.

She has a proven track record for turning around underperforming schools both as a principal and as an assistant superintendent. As a principal, she moved a school from an F to a C and another from a C to an A. As an assistant superintendent she worked to move at least one school from an F to a C in one year; as the assistant superintendent for the 50 lowest performing schools, she decreased D and F grades from 32 to 26 in one year and was predicted to decrease the number to six in the second year.

McManus has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of South Florida and a master of arts in educational leadership from the University of South Florida.

According to the contract approved by the board Tuesday night, McManus’ first official day will be Wednesday, Feb. 24.

COVID-19 update

Board members were also given an update on the district’s ongoing efforts surrounding COVID-19. McManus presented plans to increase the number of days students are in school buildings.

The board approved the recommendations which include a reduction in the number of student cohorts to allow for more days of in-person instruction. The plans will be implemented in March.

On March 8, fourth-grade cohorts will be eliminated allowing students to attend four days per week. On March 15, fifth-grade cohorts would be discontinued and allow students to attend four days per week. That same day, four cohort middle schools will shift to two cohorts, as long as 6-foot social distancing can be adhered to in classrooms.

Also, on March 15, the district will begin working with exceptional students that have IEPs and 504 plans to offer in-person learning to middle and high school students four days per week.

Administrators will also analyze high school data and bring an update and possible recommendation to the March 16 COVID committee meeting. Any change would be approved at the March 23 meeting.

Custodian raises

Also Tuesday night, the board of education approved a pay increase for district custodians. All district custodians will receive an increase of $0.60 per hour. If the $0.60 per hour does not take a custodian to the new minimum of $12 per hour, they will be moved to the new minimum of $12 an hour.

The increase is an attempt to bring WS/FCS employee compensation in-line with other districts of similar size. The range of salaries for a custodian in school districts Stokes, Wake, Alamance/Burlington, Davidson, Guilford, Lexington City and WS/FCS was from $11.58-$12.13, with WS/FCS being the lowest. Comparisons to salaries of custodians with The City of Winston-Salem and Forsyth County were also made as were comparisons of custodians based on the 2020 CAI NC Salary Survey.

“The increase will help us hire and retain custodians,” said Jevelyn Bonner-Reed, chief human resources officer for WS/FCS. “Our Compensation Committee will continue to study the pay of other groups of employees for future recommendations to the board.”

Groups of employees that have already received increases include bus drivers, child nutrition workers and teacher assistants. This is part of a multi-year compensation project that will involve analysis, review and potential changes for all employee groups.

The total annual cost of the pay increase is expected to be $216,300. The pay raise will be implemented retroactively Jan. 1.