Vultures circling abovePublished 7:53pm Saturday, May 31, 2014
This week, a job fair was held in Raleigh. That’s not unusual — job fairs happen all the time because businesses need to recruit top talent.
What was unusual about this particular job fair is that it wasn’t a business that sponsored it, nor were the people who attended it members of the business world. Rather, the Houston School District hosted the event. Its target? North Carolina teachers.
The superintendent of Houston School District, Terry Grier, is a former Guilford County Schools superintendent. He made the move to Texas in 2009, and is now head of the seventh largest school system in the United States, with 282 schools and over 200,000 students. But Grier has his sights set on wooing top North Carolina teachers and he has a way to do it: money.
Teachers in the Houston School District with zero to four years experience are paid a starting salary of $46,000. That’s $16,000 more per year than North Carolina currently pays its starting teachers, and it’s a lot more money for teachers fresh out of college, teachers who will be starting their lives and making plans to settle down somewhere. Unfortunately, with the monetary incentive offered by the HSD, they might just go West and settle Texas.
The state’s best and brightest are going to go where they are appreciated and that appreciation is best conveyed through salary: “We appreciate you enough to give you what you’re worth.” Grier, having been a part of North Carolina’s public school systems, knows how much North Carolina teachers feel undervalued and he’s simply using the opportunity to improve the schools in his new home.
Meanwhile, as you’ll read in today’s paper, Beaufort County Schools has come up with its own program to recruit and retain quality teachers. BCS can’t increase teacher pay — that’s up to state legislators — but what it can do is tap into county business resources and offer a discount program to its teachers.
The situation is reminiscent of vultures circling in the sky, waiting to descend on the dead. In this scenario, it’s North Carolina’s public education system that’s on the cusp of life and death. Here, Beaufort County Schools are the good guys, coming up with enterprising tactics to keep the scavengers at bay. But the vultures above aren’t the bad guys. The vultures, instead, are merely taking advantage of the fact that North Carolina ranks 46 out of 50 states in teacher pay.
Letting the top teaching talent of North Carolina be lured away jeopardizes the future of the entire system. BCS administrators should be commended for a valiant local effort to compensate for the failure by the state to protect its educational resources.