SMITHFIELD, N.C. (WJZY) — A Johnston County teacher is sounding the alarm, upset and worried that she has uncovered an issue that would impact teachers starting families.
Colleen Hollifield reached out only to Queen City News Anchor Robin Kanady, who informed state leaders of the issue.
Hollifield said the state Department of Public Instruction is giving her pushback, saying she does not qualify for paid parental leave.
Hollified’s infant Cash Hollifield is a dream baby.
“I think we immediately started crying; it’s always so special,” said Hollifield, a teacher in Johnston County Schools. “My husband, Jay, wasn’t able to be there for our third being born because of COVID, so it was a really special experience for us.”
Hollifield was relieved to find out she’d be getting paid maternity leave because of a new law that went into effect on July 1, giving teachers and other state employees in North Carolina up to eight weeks of paid parental leave.
“I was excited,” said Hollifield. “We were ecstatic.”
Her baby had arrived, and it was time to take time away from teaching and just be a mom.
“We got a bombshell dropped on us,” said Hollifield.
Suddenly, she got a call last week telling her she didn’t get paid time off.
“I was devastated,” said Hollifield. “I immediately started crying because this affects our family in a devastating way, we can’t afford for me to be home for eight weeks and not get paid anything, and then, I can’t leave my 2-and-a-half-week-old.”
She says her local school district and the state Department of Public Instruction told her she did not qualify for paid parental leave because she switched school districts and has not been working in her current school district yet for 12 months, despite having 17 years of teaching experience in North Carolina.
“It’s really terrifying,” said Hollifield. “I can’t even imagine how many other teachers are going through this.”
With just days to decide whether she returns to the classroom or takes unpaid leave, Hollifield only wants to focus on her newborn.
“I do not know what I will do if they can’t help us,” said Hollifield.
Queen City News emailed the state Department of Public Instruction asking if teachers who switch school districts have to be at their new district for 12 months before they get paid leave, but we have yet to hear back from DPI Tuesday.
State Senator Natasha Marcus and the North Carolina Association of Educators say they’re checking into the potential problem.