Pitt County School Board approves new teacher bonuses - Local news, weather, sports Savannah | WSAV On Your Side

Pitt County School Board approves new teacher bonuses

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When it comes to teacher pay, North Carolina is one of the worst.

Now with budget cuts looming, educators say it's your child's education that ultimately suffers.

9 On Your Side talked with Lauren Piner, a South Central High School teacher in Pitt County, about her financial struggles. She says it's now the norm for beginning teachers like her to have second jobs.

"A lot us, we leave school 5 or 6 o'clock in the afternoon, go to a second job, come home, grade papers, do the lesson plans, wake up, do it all again the next day," she says.

Pitt County teachers make, on average, $7,000 less than other teachers in our state and nearly $20,000 less than teachers nation-wide. It's been five years since they got pay raises and the General Assembly's proposed budgets don't include any for this upcoming year.

"It's hard to recruit highly qualified candidates now because there's no incentive to draw people to Pitt County to work," says Julie Cary, the principal at South Central High School. "We've lost some really good candidates to other counties that do provide incentives and bonus pay. So it's been difficult to find the caliber teacher we're looking for these days."

But there's a glimmer of hope.

County commissioners just re-instated $200,000 in beginning teacher bonuses for next year. That means a $650 signing bonus, plus a 2 percent supplement with the chance to increase it to 5 percent if new teachers score high enough on performance-based evaluations. 

"We were extremely pleased with our Pitt County commissioners for listening to the needs of our Board of Education and our central office staff in ensuring that we do have the funds to make us a competitive district," says Mary Robinson, president of the Pitt County Association of Educators.

Cary agrees, "I think it's going to make a huge impact. I think now that we're revving this back up, we will certainly have a larger, deeper pool of qualified candidates that want to come to Pitt County."

Piner and Robinson say the locally-funded bonuses are encouraging. But they now want state legislators to make teachers a priority, too.

"Teachers aren't out there to empty the coffers of the state," Piner says. "We just want a living, survivable wage to allow us to do our job and feel valued."

The Board of Education approved the new teacher bonuses Friday morning in an open meeting.

They will divide them among about 125 to 150 new teachers this upcoming year, and say the greatest need is always middle and high school math and science teachers.

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