04/08/06 — In demand: County must show willingness to compete for best teachers

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In demand: County must show willingness to compete for best teachers

The news that Wayne County does not have enough money to fund a scholarship program designed to encourage local students to study education, and then to stay here and teach, is sad for the students who will lose the opportunity this year.

But the loss of the program — although important — is not the only reason county residents should be a bit concerned. The decision will be just one factor in an ongoing — and important — issue across the region and state.

Wayne County leaders have heard time and time again that there is a teacher shortage in this state — and around the country for that matter.

Finding qualified teachers who are willing to come to North Carolina isn’t easy anyway. Getting them to sign a contract in this county is even more difficult.

You see, Wayne County is not really competitive.

There are great schools and great students here, and there is every reason in the world why teachers should want to come here to begin, extend or otherwise develop their careers. The problem is, Wayne County — and North Carolina — are still behind in salaries — and for most people who hold a job — that matters.

So, this county needs every advantage it can muster to attract the best and the brightest and those who might possibly become the best and the brightest. And while quality schools and personnel help, the bottom line is, teaching is one of those professions that is in high demand now, especially in certain subject areas.

So, there is a lot more competition for a first-class applicant’s attention.

Higher local supplements, sign-on bonuses in some of the most difficult-to-fill specialties and capturing the attention and loyalties early are just a few of the ways Wayne County Schools can go to the top of a potential applicant’s list.

And county school officials are already working hard to get that attention and those applicants, with some success.

But school officials know the shortage is going to get worse, not better. Education is a tough field that requires someone who is not only oblivious of pay scales, but determined to make a difference in the classroom. This is not a 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., punch the clock and you are home profession. Paperwork, tutoring, paper grading and other outside activities relating to getting the lesson across to students occupy much more time than most people think.

If Wayne County’s leaders are truly committed to creating better schools, they should start with attracting and keeping quality personnel.

That takes vision, money and a plan.

We will just have to wait to see if county leaders have any of those ingredients.

Published in Editorials on April 8, 2006 11:30 PM