New Hanover Schools Strive to Encourage Teaching Positions in Times of Shortage

For New Hanover County schools, special education positions are often difficult to fill. But this year, they are hoping for better salaries, and strategic recruitment plans will begin to attract more special education teachers, along with many other positions that remain vacant.

With a further increase in county salary supplements, schools in New Hanover County hope to attract more applications from highly qualified teacher candidates as the district’s teachers become some of the highest paid in the state. In June, the New Hanover County Board of Commissioners approved a budget that more than doubled the average salary supplement for teachers.

“We owe it to future generations to ensure that our children have the best possible education,” Commissioner President Julia Olson-Boseman told StarNews after the 3-2 vote passed the budget plan. “I think we do this by attracting and keeping the best teachers possible. ”

Whitney Maher, a teacher at Eaton Elementary School, gives a lesson on the moon at the school in Wilmington, North Carolina on Friday, March 12, 2021.

The district has several positions that remain vacant with only one month before the resumption of classes:

  • Specialized teachers in all classes
  • Speech therapists
  • School psychologists
  • High school math and science teachers
  • Health science teachers
  • Teachers of commercial and industrial education
  • Teachers in scientific visualization / game art design
  • Construction / carpentry / drafting / automotive service teachers
  • Design education teachers
  • IT staff

Josh Smith, the school district’s communications director, said it was currently too early to say whether the increase in salary supplements had resulted in new demands in the district, as it was just approved last month. He said the district was working to develop more initiatives for its strategic plan to attract applications from highly qualified teacher candidates, as well as non-teaching staff who are not entitled to the salary increase, such as teachers. counselors and social workers.

“We also want educators who join our district to feel supported and have a clear career path,” he said. “We have many innovative and established avenues for our teachers to grow as educators and leaders. ”

The district also offers several teacher support programs, including a program for teaching assistants to become certified teachers, mentorships for new staff, and opportunities for seasoned teachers to advance to leadership positions. higher level in the district. Smith noted that all new assistant principals hired for the 2021-2022 school year were selected from applicants already working in the district.

North Carolina was ranked 43rd in the country for the average starting salary for teachers, which is just over $ 37,000, according to the National Educators Association. That’s lower than other neighboring states, like Virginia, which ranks 17th with an average starting salary above $ 42,000.

For several years, the country has seen a decline in the number of graduate education students, and senior teachers have started to leave the profession for careers outside of the classroom. In North Carolina, the UNC system is seeing a drop in enrollment in education programs by up to 30%.

“If the mainstream discourse on the teaching profession carries a negative bearing… it takes a lot of resilience in the face of these challenges to defend the profession,” said Van Dempsey, Dean of Watson College of Education at UNCW.

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The UNCW hasn’t seen a drop in enrollment, but it hasn’t seen an increase either, Dempsey said. Watson College of Education has shifted parts of its curriculum to online learning to make learning more accessible, and is also leveraging partnerships with local organizations and schools, such as Virgo Middle School and Isaac Bear Early College High School, to provide more opportunities for education students.

To recruit more students into the teaching profession, Dempsey said it will take collaboration between universities, school districts, local and state governments and the community to make the profession more attractive to young people. He said tax support should start as soon as a student enters an education program, in addition to better pay supplements for teachers.

“From the very beginning of when you decide to become a teacher until you retire, let’s build this system, especially at the beginning – loans, scholarships, tuition credits and incentives – to get in and finish education you have to become a teacher. great teacher, ”Dempsey said.

New Hanover County Schools hosted a job fair on Saturday, July 17 at Hoggard High School, where applicants for various teaching positions in the district had the opportunity to apply, interview and interview. receive a job offer on-site after passing a background check. Positions available included special education, counselors and social workers, high school math and science, English as a second language and several other specializations.

Journalist Sydney Hoover can be reached at 910-343-2339 or [email protected]

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