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Raleigh Head Start Teachers Walk Out Over Pay Dispute

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RALEIGH — Some Raleigh parents got a surprise Thursday when they learned nine of 10 teachers at a Raleigh Head Start school did not show up for work.

The school is run by Wake Opportunities. Teachers, who have direct deposit accounts, say their paychecks were not in the bank. They walked out.

"We are supposed to get direct deposit in our accounts," says teacher Barbara Burks. "It's not in there. They didn't send us a memo letting us know we would not be paid."

The teachers had been hearing for about a week that they would not get paid through direct deposit. Instead, they received printed checks Thursday.

Paychecks in hand, teachers later returned to work, but not before parents started arriving. Clara Eason went to the school just after 7 a.m. to drop off her 4-year-old daughter.

"I was stopped at the door and told no teachers were in," she says. "I can't go to work. I can't leave her here."

Wake Opportunities' Grace Wright is the director of the school. She says the teachers did get a memo about the problem, telling the employees they would be receiving a printed check Thursday. She blames a computer glitch.

"The system was hung up printing W-2 forms," she says. "It was going to be faster to print a physical check, because we could use another computer to do that."

Wright says she hopes to improve communication with her staff.

Six other Head Start programs run by Wake Opportunities were affected. Schools in Raleigh, Garner, Knightdale, Holly Springs, Orange County and Chatham County had the same problems.

Teachers there did not walk out, but local school directors had to go to Raleigh to pick up the printed checks. They were upset with the glitch.

"We wish we would've known yesterday, so we could've prepared our staff yesterday," says Head Start employee Myra Bradley. Teachers say they never received the memo Wright said she sent.

The teachers who refused to work Thursday will not be disciplined. Regulators from the Dept. of Health and Human Services say Wake Opportunities could lose its Head Start funding in six months if it does not show improvement.