Thoughts on Education in North Carolina

The turnover rate in NC schools is and has been tremendous for the past 5-7 years. We felt it big time in my last school district, as over the years our administrative teams had to work in overdrive throughout the school year to hire between 15-40 teaching and staff positions annually. 

Unbelievably, it’s even worse in the middle of the state, right below the state capital. At our district’s new teacher orientation last August, I sat with hundreds of newbies, many of whom were moving into NC from northern states straight out of college, where I’m told they’ll start their careers and work about three years, before moving back to their home states and be able to get into teaching positions. 

This is because NC pay is so low by comparison, that these states use our educational institutions as proving grounds and don’t have to hire their own new graduates, since they can afford to pay for more experienced, seasoned teachers. Wow! How much money do we spend to take trips to recruit them, and then train them extensively through our new teacher process, only to lose them in three years. Millions! 

This represents a HUGE financial loss for us in the education profession, and for our students and their families as the relationship building ends far too quickly, which can then result in distrust, achievement gaps and drop outs down the road.

Meanwhile, day after day the past couple of years in NC school districts, we just pick up the pieces and begin again, and again, and again. It’s a shameful loss of taxpayer money going down the drain. Oh, but what a huge financial and relational gain for these higher paying states who benefit from all the lessons learned, time spent learning to nurture our young people and work with our families!! Good for them!

I have personally hired some staff over the years who have bucked the trend and made NC their home, but it’s been rare the past few years that things worked out that way, especially as the economy has taken a nose dive.

Last year, I was back in the classroom after 15 years as an administrator. First, I discovered something that’s broken about NC education pay scales. I was making a bit more salary annually in 10 months last year, and could  spend more time with my family, than I was able to make in an 11 or 12 month assistant principal position, working the 60-80 hours the job requires weekly in a secondary school in this state for years! That was truly crazy, and I wish I’d known it a few years ago, before mandated State and Federal testing took over the world of education. 

And, speaking of turnover, our small alternative school staff of 14 saw more than half of it’s teacher, teacher assistant and support staff positions turnover since last June in ONE school year! Some of these open positions were filled by high school and middle school teachers who traveled over from other schools in the system during their planning periods to teach our students. I saw the same strategy applied in our secondary alternative school in my last district. It doesn’t work!

Our strongest, highest paid teacher leaders should be recruited into these alternative school positions, because of their true love of this type of student and their exceptional teaching and management skills. These typically “under-achieving”, and unfortunately mostly minority students need lots of patience, structure and love. They need a different type of program than the usual school setting, but sitting them in front of computer screens for virtual school isn’t the perfect solution either.

Quality education everywhere is about relationships over time. The government of North Carolina needs to work harder on it’s own relationship with educational staff and students. The government’s daily consumers are also it’s producers since school employees, their student’s families and the future employers of the next generation of workers all pay taxes that help fund the education system. 

It’s way past time to come up with the money to provide more salary for staff and daily operations in our our public schools in a pro-active way. Years of research show that poor schools, among other things, do more to create and sustain poverty, the achievement gap and prisons than prevent them. 

NC must be competitive with other top school systems (not just states) throughout the country, especially since NC has a government run statewide pay scale.

It may already be too late. Other states and countries are out-spending on recruiting and hiring. Count me in on that total, as I rode the wave of professionals heading out of state too.  So long NC!

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