03/07/07 — Wayne might reinstate teacher incentives

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Wayne might reinstate teacher incentives

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on March 7, 2007 1:51 PM

After being dormant for the past year, a local scholarship program to entice students to enter the teaching profession is being considered for reinstatement.

Olivia Pierce, executive director for public relations with the school system, told the school board Monday night the Wayne County Scholarship Board of Trustees met recently to discuss possible teacher incentives that might include funding the scholarships.

"Last March 21, the board of county commissioners voted to suspend the teacher scholarship program that they had been supporting for several years," she said. "In January, they sent a letter to (superintendent) Dr. Steve Taylor that they would like the scholarship trustees to develop some recommendations."

When the trustees met last month, several recommendations were given, Mrs. Pierce said.

"Trustees agreed to request increasing sign-on bonuses for new teachers and increasing supplemental funding," she said. "They stated that Wayne County needs to be competitive with surrounding counties."

The trustees also proposed asking commissioners for exemption of taxes for one year to new teachers and working with the Chamber of Commerce to obtain incentives from businesses in written form, which would be updated yearly.

Trustees also agreed that the teacher scholarship program does not need to end, Mrs. Pierce said.

"Trustees would like to continue funding of scholarships and recommends reducing annual scholarships from eight recipients to five recipients -- two to Wayne Community College, two to a public university and one to a private university," she said.

The Wayne County Teacher Scholarship Program was introduced more than six years ago by the county commission, modeled after a similar state program. The N.C. Teaching Fellows Scholarship is awarded to 400 students each year on condition that they teach in a public school in the state for four years after college graduation.

Wayne County became the first county in the state to introduce its own version when the commission approved it in 2000.

Eight scholarships were awarded each year, with the loans forgiven if students agreed to teach in Wayne County for four years following graduation.

County money and private contributions waned, however, prompting the commission to announce last year that the program would be discontinued.

Mrs. Pierce said there are currently 12 teachers in Wayne County who have been recipients of the local incentive, while another 14 are still attending college.

The Board of Education endorsed the recommendations presented by the trustees, which Dr. Taylor said would be submitted to the county manager and commission.

School board member Dave Thomas said with the declining number of students entering the teaching profession, the scholarship program is still a viable means of attracting potential educators.

"Anything we can do in this manner is in a positive direction," he said.

Board member Rick Pridgen agreed.

"I was very saddened when I heard last year that it had ceased to function. It's nice to know that there's some reconsideration being given."

Shirley Sims, board chairwoman, said recruitment and retention of teachers is vital.

"We need all the help we can get," she said.