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Greener Grass

Greener Grass
October 02
00:00 2014
pictured above: ( Forsyth County Association of Educators President Ann Pettijean joins other educators, parents and students for a rally last year.)

Teachers find respect, more money in Lone Star State

North Carolina is losing teachers as they look for better pay and working conditions in other states.
North Carolina, before this school year’s raise, was ranked 46th in the nation in teacher pay by the National Education Association. Moving to states as close as South Carolina can net teachers a $10,000 or more salary increase.

The new pay scale this year will range from $33,000 to $50,000 for teachers with bachelor’s degrees, but many say that is still not enough.

Several counties have reported unusually high amounts of teacher turnover. Brunswick County lost one-fifth of its 840 teachers in the 2013-14 school year. Wake County has had 600 teachers quit since the school year began, up 41 percent from last year.

Houston (Texas) Independent School District (HISD), whose superintendent, Terry Grier, is a former Guilford County schools superintendent, came to North Carolina to capitalize on teacher discontent. HISD held its own career fairs in Charlotte, Raleigh and Greensboro with the sole purpose of recruiting N.C. teachers for its 280 schools.

About 40 former N.C. teachers have made the move to the Lone Star State. Among them is Bobbie Lynch.

Bobbie Lynch, a former local educator, has a new career in Texas.

Bobbie Lynch, a former local educator, has a new career in Texas.

The New Jersey native taught for several years at Carver High School before becoming the learning teams facilitator for Winston-Salem/Forsyth County Schools and ultimately doing an principal internship at Walkertown Middle School.

An administrative job wasn’t available for her after that, and she was scheduled to teach at Mt. Tabor High School this school year. She was looking at the pay loss of going from an 11-month administrative employee to 10-month teacher. She also wouldn’t be working with the at-risk students she prefers to teach.

So she decided to take advantage of HISD’s offer after attending the Greensboro fair. She now teaches at Middle College High School on a satellite campus of Houston Community College. She works with students who have been expelled or are aging out of the school system.

She said she was just making ends meet in North Carolina. In Houston, she’s making $10,000 more as a 10-month employee than she was making in North Carolina as an 11-month employee.

“It’s less stressful, where I can focus on my work rather than focus on how I’m going to pay the bills,” she said.

Catherine Stennette is also teaching in Houston. She taught at Rocky Mount’s Tar River Academy, a non-traditional alternative school for at-risk students. The 16-year teaching veteran spent most of her career in Austin, Texas before moving to Rocky Mount. She said she returned to Texas after being told she would not be re-hired this school year because she made too much money.

Stennette

Stennette

“I felt extremely disrespected,” she said. “I left work and had a panic attack because I didn’t know what to do at that point.”

She had attended the HISD job fair in Raleigh and now teaches at Lee High School in Houston.
In Rocky Mount she rented her home and had a second part-time job to make ends meet. Now, she plans to own a home again, like she did when she formerly taught in Austin. In addition to higher pay, Stennette said her teaching load is less in Texas and even school supplies are provided for her.

Forsyth County Association of Educators President Ann Pettijean said HISD was smart to come to North Carolina, which has the highest number of National Board Certified Teachers in the nation and an environment where education cuts and other polices make teachers feel unwanted.

“I think there comes a point where you feel so disrespected by the people who are making decisions about your job that you have to look for another place to work,” she said, adding that though the number of teachers retiring earlier or moving out of state has increased greatly, it is still a small percentage of the state’s teachers.

Ellis

Ellis

North Carolina Association of Educators President Rodney Ellis called the situation a “travesty” and laid blame with lawmakers, who he says have allowed other states to “raid” N.C. teachers because they have not invested in them.

“Teachers right now are making some very tough decisions,” he said. “Number one, if they’re going to continue teaching and, two, if they’re going to continue teaching in North Carolina.”

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Todd Luck

Todd Luck

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