“Connecting the curious across the county”
April 19, 2019
Hello, Chathamites. Happy Friday!
How will Chatham County find and pay for resources for new schools?
Chatham Park officials estimate that the largest mixed-use development in the state will generate 6,051 additional students in Chatham County. For context, Chatham County Schools currently serves 8,840 students.
More students, naturally, means more teachers. This thought wasn’t lost on William Rosenfeld, a self-described elderly professional who has “been very interested in education quality and funding for many decades.”
With that in mind, Rosenfeld asked Our Chatham to report on how CCS will “find (and pay for) teachers?” with the Chatham Park development.
Here’s what we learned.
● Mark Jewell, the president of the North Carolina Association of Educators, said there are currently 1,500 vacant teaching positions North Carolina. He said the state is seeing fewer people enter the profession, which doesn’t bode well moving forward.
● Some of the reasons why fewer North Carolinians are entering the teaching ranks include:
- Teacher pay – The average teacher salary in North Carolina increased from 37th to 29th from 2017-18 to 2018-19 ($53,975). However, that amount still falls considerably below the national average of $60,462.
- Jewell cited the fact that in 2013 the State General Assembly decided to eliminate salary increases for teachers with master’s degrees. Jewell also noted a lack of raises for experienced teachers.
- In 2017, North Carolina legislators passed a budget that eliminated state health care for retired state employees hired after January 2021.
● Jewell believes hiring teachers can be difficult in rural areas. That’s where Chatham County comes into play.
● According to John McCann, CCS’ public relations coordinator, Chatham County is unique compared to most rural counties, with its relatively close proximity to the Triangle. “It will remain important for us to help prospective teachers understand that while Chatham County Schools is in a rural area, our employees are able to access the amenities associated with larger cities in relatively short drives,” McCann said.
● Preston Development Company representative Chuck Smith said Chatham Park officials are not worried about whether there will be enough teachers in Chatham County. While the county is rural, he said it is “becoming part of the Triangle,” and that “urban areas are attracting more people than ever and the teachers choosing to work in our state are more likely to locate in the urban areas.”
● In North Carolina, teaching positions are funded by the state based on average daily membership. The ratio varies from grade to grade – the state funds one kindergarten teaching position for every 16 students and one 10th-12th grade position for every 29 students – but the general idea is that the more students you have, the more teaching positions will be funded.
● However, it’s up to local districts to secure adequate funding from their local counties to supplement state salaries for teachers. According to Jewell, there’s “bidding wars” being waged by districts throughout North Carolina to entice potential hires.
● CCS Chief Finance Officer Tony Messer presented information on the proposed 2019-20 district budget. He said 35% of the district’s funding comes from local sources, and that CCS ranks sixth out of 116 districts in North Carolina in per-pupil county funding ($3,510). Overall, CCS ranks 43rd in total funding per pupil.
● This school year, Leonhard said, CCS changed its local supplement scale for teachers from set to sliding. Beginning teachers now receive a 12% local supplement, and more experienced teachers receive a 14% supplement. “Our county commissioners have been wonderful to work with,” Leonhard said. “I honestly believe once we get people here, they want to stay.”
● For the 2017-18 school year, the average teacher supplement in CCS was $5,057, which ranked seventh in the state but trailed neighboring districts Wake (No. 1, $8,649), Chapel Hill-Carrboro City (No. 2, $7,904), Durham (No. 4, $6931) and Orange (No. 5, $6,274)
● Jewell said alternatives including Teach For America and lateral entry might have to be explored if CCS struggles to attract traditional teachers.
Have more questions about how growth will affect schools in Chatham County? We base our journalism on reader questions, so send them our way if you would like to inspire further reporting!
What’s on our radar…
The Pittsboro Confederate statue debate. Here are some of the highlights, but check here for the whole story.
- The comment session began with a presentation by Howard Fifer, who
introduced Chatham for All, a group that opposes the statue. The group also presented the commissioners with a petition signed by more than 900 people, which asked for the removal and return of the state to the Daughters of the Confederacy. Fifer argued that, because the statue was privately owned by the Daughters of the Confederacy but on public land, it could be removed at any time.
- Reverend Carl Thompson, a pastor at Word of Life Christian Outreach Center and former commissioner, cited the Bible and called for dialogue in the spirit of truth and reconciliation. Thompson, who is black, also said walking past the statue when he was a commissioner felt “surreal” because he was trying to advocate for all in Chatham while a statue he said opposed civil rights stood outside.
- Emily Moose, a Chatham resident and current planning board member, said the town is losing potential sources of economic investment because of the unwelcome message the statue sent.
- John Wagner, a Chatham resident, said having the statue in front of the courthouse would be tantamount to allowing the statue of school shooter to be placed in front of a school.
- Many of the statue’s supporters said it didn’t represent slavery
or racism, but rather the sacrifice of the men who died during the Civil War fighting for the Confederacy. Some supporters of the monument also said that their ancestors didn’t personally own slaves.
- Many statue opponents pointed out that the statue was erected in 1907 by the United Daughters of the Confederacy, decades after the end of the Civil War. These supporters of the monument said the UDC maintained a close relationship with the Ku Klux Klan and helped promote revisionist history about the Civil War.
- Some pro-statue supporters accused the other side of being paid
activists attempting to get rid of “anything Southern” and asked the board if they would consider removing other historical sites and monuments to veterans of other wars.
Public meetings to watch…
- The Pittsboro Board of Commissioners will meet next Monday, April 22 at the Pittsboro Town Hall at 7 p.m. There will be direct questions from the Board to Chatham Park developers concerning the tree protection. Check out the agenda for the full run-down on other topics to be covered at the meeting.
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