State raise impacts 70 teachers in Thomasville

Teacher tenure exchange still looms
Feb. 15, 2014 @ 09:13 AM

Approximately one out of every four teachers in Thomasville can expect a raise following Gov. Pat McCrory's announcement regarding educator salaries.

Base pay for teachers will increase by 14 percent, McCrory said Monday in Jamestown. The raise will provide a little boost to a workforce that hasn't received a raise in six years. Base pay for teachers with up to five years experience will rise from $30,800 to $35,000 over the next two years.

As many as 70 teachers in the Thomasville City Schools system will start seeing more money in their paycheck as a result.

“I think it's needed without a doubt,” said TCS Superintendent Dr. Maria Pitre-Martin. “Our teachers work very hard each and every day and its been a long time since they have had a pay raise.”

North Carolina is near the bottom nationally when it comes to teacher salaries, which have been frozen across the state since 2008. With many school systems dealing with budget cuts and layoffs, the announcement provides some good news to teachers, who also are being asked to give up their tenure as part of Senate Bill 402.

“With some other things that have occurred, their morale is very low right now,” Pitre-Martin said. ”We need to pay them more for many different reasons. I wish it could be more than what is being proposed but I think any increase will be welcome.”

Pitre-Martin said the pay increase should attract new teachers to the state and help North Carolina be more competitive with the rest of the country.

“That's been a concern for quite some time because teachers haven't been given any pay raises for the last few years and we knew that we were falling behind the national average,” said Pitre-Martin. “When you look at all the states, we're toward the bottom. Any increase would definitely be welcome and is needed.”

Sarah Wood, a fourth grade teacher in her second year at Liberty Drive Elementary, said any raise is good news, especially for educators who often spend money out of their own pocket to ensure students have what they need in order to be successful.

“Everyone's been talking about it,” Wood said. “It's definitely a good thing because every little bit helps as a teacher. You're always using your own money for the classroom.”

Wood moved to Thomasville from Georgia, and was surprised North Carolina ranked so low nationally in average teacher salaries. She agrees that the additional money will help attract more and better teachers to the state.

“When you start teaching you know it's not about the money,” said Wood. “That's not why you go into it but I didn't know how much lower it was in North Carolina compared to other states. It will definitely put North Carolina on the map and make it more competitive with other states.”

Monday's announcement, however, does not mean every teacher will receive a raise. Teachers with more than five years experience do not qualify for the pay increase. TCS has more than 200 teachers with only a third eligible for the raise.

Wood feels every teacher should benefit.

“One of the concerns is it only will be applicable to new teachers,” Wood said. “What can be done for our other teachers?”

Senate Bill 402 eliminates teacher tenure beginning in 2018. The bill requires all school systems to identify and offer four-year contracts to the top 25 percent of its teachers in exchange for their tenure. TCS in December conducted an informal survey and found that 56 percent of the 120 teachers eligible for the offer were not interested in surrendering their tenure.

“Teachers are very uncertain about what it means,” said Pitre-Martin. “We know the teacher's association has filed a lawsuit regarding this piece of legislation, so they are concerned that if something were to happen and the legislation was changed and they've already given up their tenure, could they go back and get it? They're very unclear.”

Opposing teachers would rather keep their tenure and see what happens in the upcoming years, Pitre-Martin said.

School systems will receive additional money from the state to help compensate for the pay increases.

Staff Writer Eliot Duke can be reached at 888-3578, or duke@tvilletimes.com.