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School payroll clerk leaves no room for mistakes

When dealing with employees’ money, there is no room for mistakes.

After 35 years on the job, Halifax County Public Schools payroll clerk Donna Henderson works to make sure mistakes don’t happen in a job she says she loves.

It’s a non-stop “never-get-a-break” cycle, according to Henderson.

Working in the finance department at the central office for over three decades and under several superintendents and finance directors, Henderson has formed many friendships.

“The co-workers are your second family. It’s a good working place,” said Henderson.

The veteran payroll clerk began her duties in 1979. She completes elementary reports, insurance, retirement reports and other reports due quarterly.

The hardest part, Henderson said, is all the monthly reports. Meeting all the deadlines from the state department, IRS and Virginia Retirement System.

“It’s never the same, something new every day, and it’s never boring,” said Henderson.

The busiest time is the middle of the month when the finance department cuts off payroll and starts again.

Her favorite part of the job is knowing she is making people happy on pay day, and if there is ever a misunderstanding, she realizes she must put herself in their shoes.

“I always tell them not to be scared, and we explain to people and answer questions,” said Henderson.

She has seen many changes through the years, especially in technology. When she first began her career, payroll was completed on cassettes, ledger books, and now everything is on Excel. 

“It makes it easier, but the paperwork has changed. It’s so much more reporting,” she added.

There used to be three meetings held a month including elementary, city and joint, where now there is only one, said Henderson.

The most memorable experience for Henderson is when she went into labor with both her sons on the job.

If she weren’t busy working at the central office, she said she’d be setting up booths at Toots Creek Antiques Mall, something she does part time now as a hobby.

“If I could change anything, I’d want the economy to be better, so everyone could get a raise, but that’s something we just don’t have any control over,” said Henderson.

The payroll clerk looks forward to retirement as her husband has already done so, and even though she has the years to retire now, she said she’s just not ready.

“I want to work a few more years,” said Henderson.

Henderson and her husband, L.W., reside in Oak Level and between them have four boys, Joey and Scott Adams and Kevin and Brian Henderson and four grandchildren and another on the way.

“It’s been a good 35 years…we’re just a big family,” Henderson concluded.


This is the third in an occasional series The Gazette-Virginian plans to publish this year spotlighting unsung heroes in the education arena.