08/30/09 — Golden Rule will feature incentives for teachers

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Golden Rule will feature incentives for teachers

By Steve Herring
Published in News on August 30, 2009 12:26 AM

A 15 percent discount on heating and air conditioning work might not sound like something normally associated with teacher recruitment, but for Teacher Recruitment and Retention Committee chairwoman Beverly Carroll, it is the kind of benefit that will help the county put together a successful incentive package.

She is hopeful other businesses will accept the challenge and join the Wayne County Chamber of Commerce's Golden Rule Program.

The committee is one of several under the umbrella of the chamber's Education Council, which is chaired by retired Wayne Community College president Dr. Ed. Wilson, who says teacher recruitment and retention are too important to be sidelined by current economic woes.

Ms. Carroll added the school system is the county's second-largest employer behind Seymour Johnson Air Force Base.

"Wayne County embraces the military, and we should," she said. "We also need to show that same kind of commitment to the No. 2 employer that we give our children to every day. We need to show them that, yeah, we do appreciate what you are doing."

Wilson added, "The bottom line is that most every school district has a set of incentives, and we want to be as competitive as we possibly can in terms of recruiting new teachers to our district and of course, keeping them.

"We may not be as competitive on a supplement as say Wake County and Johnston County, our biggest competitor, but if we have a good incentive package, and then we can show things like the cost of living is little bit less here than it would be in Johnston County or Wake County ... . So we are hoping that a combination of a lower cost of living plus a real good incentive package will help sway people to come here. Once we get them here, then it is the schools' job to keep them."

It makes sense to recruit in tough economic times, Wilson said.

"We think this program is going to go on forever, but what we want to do is to continue to build on that incentive package every time that we can," he said. "We have got to be competitive because, obviously, when the economy turns around, and they hopefully will have enough money to reduce class sizes and hire more teachers, we want to get the best ones that we can. It is also important to retain the good ones that we have."

"If you add a nice enough incentive package and you create interest and you get 120 applications for 60 jobs, then you are going to get 60 of the best, not just only the 60 who applied," Ms. Carroll said. "What (the program) is is getting businesses involved in helping us recruit and to retain the good teachers we already have and giving us an opportunity to show that Wayne County cares about the people we are putting in front of our children.

The Golden Rule Program is tiered. Businesses decide if they want to offer the incentive for new teachers (up to three years in the county system), experienced teachers (three years or more) or for any county schools systems employee -- bus drivers, cafeteria, any employee, she said.

All school staff members have identification cards that eventually will include the "golden ruler" on the side. A green apple on the badge will signify a new teacher and a red apple will signify teachers with three or more years. A badge without an apple signifies all other county school employees.

"A lot of (business) people have signed up for all of them," Wilson said. "We went from two pages in February up to six pages of incentives. We want everybody to know about it."

And some businesses already had programs for educators -- just no forum for letting them know the discounts were available, Ms. Carroll said. Now, they have one.

The incentives are listed on the chamber Web site and the county schools site.

"We want the businesses to know this is out here," Ms. Carroll said. "At a time when so many people are unemployed, we think this is a win-win for the businesses out here. This is a group of people who didn't get a raise this year, but they are getting a paycheck.

Some car dealers are offering "significant discounts" to educators, she said.

"If I see that, then I might go there first," she said. "It is a win for the employees, and it is a win for the businesses."

Participating businesses will display a Golden Rule sign.

"We want our teachers to go into business and identify themselves as teachers and ask the business if they are part of the Golden Rule Program," Ms. Carroll said. "That is another way to get the word out. We are trying to condition teachers to know their (identification) card is important and to have it with them at all times."

Another segment of Ms. Carroll's committee is working on some social networking opportunities to get young teachers together so that they can meet each other.

"We have businesses offering some socialization opportunities for them," she said. "We want to show these people Wayne County cares about education, and it is a wonderful place to live not just to work."

Anyone interested in participating in the Golden Rule program should contact Janet Brock at the chamber office at 734-2241.