DURHAM, N.C. (WNCN) – Turquoise LeJeune Parker’s bonus left her baffled. 

“It hurts. It hurts. Literally in your stomach because we are working class people,” she stated. 

Parker is an educator with Durham Public Schools and Vice President of the Durham Association of Educators. 

She feels the bonus employees received needed to come with a bit of a warning. 

“This comes down to communication.  An unfortunate lack of communication from the payroll department of our school district to us as employees,” said Parker. 

What was expected?  

A $1,500 retention bonus.  However, what DPS employees received was less than that.  

According to a spokesperson for the school district, employees received the bonus on Sept. 15. They told CBS17 Friday, “Per IRS regulations, monthly compensation, including the retention bonus, was taxed at the employees’ regular tax rate.” 

CBS17’s Nick Sturdivant: How much, are you hearing, are people short?” 

“It’s about $450.  So, that was something that was not communicated so that you could prepare your heart, your mind and your wallet for that,” explained Parker. 

In an email Thursday from superintendent Dr. Pascal Mubenga to staff, he wrote:  

“Good afternoon, 

Many of you have reached out to me to share your concerns regarding changes to your paycheck. Due to increased earnings this month from the retention bonus, tax withdrawals impacted your take home pay. I recognize this is significant for you and your families. We regret not fully explaining this information and communicating these changes in advance so that you could have planned accordingly.” 

The email also included links to how staff could calculate taxes themselves. 

“I don’t think it was helpful.  A lot of staff members felt like it was insulting.  Some folks didn’t feel like a calculator was necessary,” Parker mentioned. 

So, we decided to use it.  First you must plug in your salary. In North Carolina, the average starting teacher salary is $37,676.   

Then plug in the bonus amount and it calculates the taxes. 

According to Paycheck City‘s website, after taxes, $982.25 would be the take home pay from that $1,500 based off the starting teacher pay.  

“The pay for educators is disrespectful period.  So, if our pay was at least a little bit better we might not have said as much,” stated parker. 

Parker said she would like the district to apologize.

She told us the Durham Association of Educators is working on the next steps and said she hopes district leaders listen.