Wake County Schools

Hundreds of teachers leaving Wake schools; pay cited

Posted April 17, 2014

— More than 600 teachers of the almost 9,000 employed by the Wake County Public School System left their jobs between July 1, 2013, and April 9, school leaders said Thursday.

“Teachers in Wake County have been leaving their jobs mid-year at a greater rate than in years past," Assistant Superintendent Doug Thilman said. "Given the flat pay scale over the past few years, the recent legislated removal of both career status and higher pay for teachers with graduate degrees, increased teacher turnover has been expected.”

At a leisurely lunch Thursday afternoon, Melissa Taylor cited the same financial pressures as the reason she left her job at Laurel Park Elementary School. Taylor's last day was March 17.

She gave her employers a month's notice and copied her letter of resignation to the local media. It used words like "absolute disrespect" and "heartbreaking."

"We are failing our students, our teachers and our future," she wrote.

Taylor, who has a master's degree, said after 13 years in the classroom, seven of them without a raise, she could no longer make ends meet.

"The opportunity came up for something else. To take a chance of not finding something at the end of the year was too big a chance," Taylor said.

So she made the heart-breaking decision to leave the career she loved. "I was told many times that I was born to be a teacher," she said.

Her leaving and her letter resonated through the education community.

"I had many teachers, not just from my school, but other schools just write me and thank me," she said.

Taylor took a job at a software company where she is able to cover her bills, take a lunch hour and no longer has a second job.

"I worked through my lunch every day when I was teaching," she said. "It was about 20 minutes."

Still, she loved teaching and cried when she left.

Thilman pointed out that it is common for teachers to leave their jobs as the traditional school year ends, but that spike has yet to occur this year. "We typically see a spike in teacher resignations in June and July," he said. "The data we have does not yet capture that increase."

Wake County has historically had a lower-than-average rate of teacher turnover compared to other districts in the state, leaders said, but that rate, about 12 percent in 2012-13, was expected to climb in 2013-14.

Along with a news conference Thursday afternoon at Underwood GT Magnet Elementary School, Wake school leaders released a list of the reasons teachers gave for their departure.

Jacqueline Jordan, principal at Underwood, listed teachers from her school who had left the profession because of the financial pinch.

"If we're losing teachers, what's happening in other communities around the state that do not have the same level of support from the county or the beautiful facilities?" Jordan asked.

That pinch has forced Tracy and Britt Morton, both teachers, to consider other options. They are moving to Georgia for better pay.

"We have go to make changes now," said Britt Morton, a teacher at Apex High School. "We can't wait. And that's why we are having to leave."

The Wake County Board of Education has proposed a budget which would seek an additional $39 million from county commissioners to fund an across-the-board raise of 3.5 percent for teachers and staff.

Wake schools’ average teacher salary is $45,512 while the national average is $56,383, the district said.

"We are not just begging the government for more money, we are talking about a critical shortage of teachers and a lack of respect for the profession of teachers," school board vice-chairman Tom Benton said.

Taylor now uses her freedom from teaching to give voice to those still in it.

"I feel I still have a fight. I'm not done fighting," she said. 


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  • hollyisweird Apr 24, 2014

    Retirees do so to make more money. Those individuals can draw retirement AND get a job. We've had many in our area do the same.
    Lack of respect from ALL areas is a big problem. I moved here from another state with a Master's degree in Special Education, and they wouldn't take my license because I had not met their requirement of the Praxis for Special Education. I think many would agree, in a critical shortage area, a person with a Master's and 7 years of experience would fare well in the classroom.

  • 678devilish Apr 24, 2014

    With the teachers and going else where, WHO IS GOING TO TEACH OUR STUDENTS?

  • Doug Pawlak Apr 23, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    There is no option available for a teacher to put down "leaving because of pay" but it plays a big part in every decision. Teachers choosing to retire early are still affecting the classroom and are still part of turnover. Same thing with relocation. A primary breadwinner would choose to relocate if their job had a transfer and leave the teaching job alone as chances are, it pays a lot better. It's obvious that the brutal conditions and lack of pay are the primary factor as the turnover rate is increasing dramatically year by year and corresponds with the never ending pay freeze and attack on benefits enacted by our state government.. Last year to this year alone was a 41% increase.

  • wth50beau Apr 22, 2014

    I don't see where you get the number of 600 leaving due to pay. If you look at the attached report, a large number are retirees, family relocation, child care and working in another state agency. Granted money could be a motive in some of these but that is not what the resigning teacher listed as their primary reason for leaving the field. I think tenure is the more pressing need. All state employees are feeling the budget crunch equally and teacher's should not be singled out.

  • csuarez0011 Apr 22, 2014

    After the 2013 school year ended, I left my job of teaching to pursue another career. I went to college and had always wanted to be a teacher, but in my current job of being a full time nanny, I make more money and have a lot less stress.

    What many people do not think of when they think of teachers is what they do when they are not in the classroom. Teaching isn't a 9-5 job. The lesson plans, grading, activities don't just happen. It's all hard work that goes into vacations and weekends. The emails and calls from parents are expected to be answered in a timely manner, so after school and into the evening becomes work time as well.

    I still receive phone calls and emails from former parents of the students I taught telling me they miss me and their kids miss me, but with student loans along with all my other bills, teaching was no longer a feasible option. Of all my teacher friends that I still have, I don't know any that can live off of their teacher salary alone.

  • Lysander Apr 22, 2014

    There ARE finer details here that people have touched on that play into peoples departure. The school, administrators, base students, number of students in school - in class, in-year school policy changes(that aren't followed), lack of needed supplies, lack of administrative support, lack of disciplinary support, faulty tech equipment etc; all of these issues play on you day in and day out, year after year.

    These types of things vary from school to school. Location and programs make a big difference too. A magnet high school inside the beltline in Raleigh, is gonna be a whole lot different than a high school in Apex, although maybe not as much now. The details listed above will play differently at both schools obviously, but it's an idea of what we deal with.

    We don't have to do it, and it's never been about the pay. But at least show us a little respect and some decency. I personally would rather see all education taken out of government hands all together.

  • Doug Pawlak Apr 21, 2014
    user avatar

    McCloud-"Salaries are adjusted in different areas of the country based on the local economy"

    Right, but no other NC 4 year degree salary (according to BLS statistics) has their pay so far below the national average. The cost of living, as I've already pointed out, is about average here in NC when compared to the rest of the nation. We're certainly not at the bottom as you imply.

    "Are you a teacher? "voluntraily" "slaes" "

    If you want to make an issue over typos and badly worded sentences ...we can. I'm more concerned with you trying to justify comparing teacher pay with a state median pay without allowing for qualifications. I'm also concerned that you keep trying to justify why the state can't afford raises on unsubstantiated claims that the cost of living is lower here than everywhere else. You also claim that "tax-payers cannot afford tax increase..." (one could make an issue over the improper grammar) but you then ignore the GOP's...tax cuts.

  • Collin McLoud Apr 21, 2014
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    Are you a teacher? "voluntraily" "slaes"
    Let me break it down for you. Salaries are adjusted in different areas of the country based on the local economy. This is why teachers in Washington, D.C. earn more money than teachers in N.C. One cannot compare the salary in any job in Washington, D.C. to that of the same job in N.C. due to the cost of living. This is one reason that the military housing allowance varies from area to area. The cost of living is higher/lower depending on where they are stationed.

  • Doug Pawlak Apr 21, 2014
    user avatar

    McCloud-"Social Worker. GIS Analyst, Graphic Designer to name a few get paid less than teachers and they work 12 months a year."

    Yes, you did name a few because there are only a few. In fact i can find nothing that confirms that geographers or GIS analysts make less than teachers in BLS statistics. Now I can name a whole lot that pay quite a bit more. Like I said, pretty much the rest of them. In fact the median pay for college degrees is a whole lot higher! But again, one needs to compare apples to apples. Teacher pay needs to be compared to other states teacher pay and you need to back up the claim that "The economy in other states are much higher"

    Our actual data show us to be in the middle.


  • Doug Pawlak Apr 21, 2014
    user avatar

    "I AM a state worker and I also understand that in a down economy, tax-payers cannot afford tax increase because "we" think we deserve a raise. It's simple economics."

    Well then "simple economics" would tell you that the state has largely recoved from the recession of 2009. We had a large surplus last year in state revenue. In fact the GOP has voluntraily CUT revenue twice, back in 2011 by ending a penny slaes tax and last year. No one's talking about raising taxes but it makes little sense to cut revenue when there's not enough.

    "What I said was "teachers are paid fairly well in NC" compared to the state average. "

    The state average? Why is that relevant? Again, its apples to oranges. Does one compare the average computer programmer's pay in NC to the state median to see if they're well paid or not or do you compare them to other computer programmers?