Local News

N.C. School Systems Struggle Each Year To Find Enough Teachers

Posted August 5, 2005

— North Carolina school leaders face a challenge every school year to find enough teachers to fill empty classrooms across the state. This year is no exception.

  • School starts in less than three weeks in Johnston County, and school leaders are scrambling to fill about 80 vacant certified positions. If the Johnston County school system cannot fill those positions by the start of school on Aug. 25, substitutes and retired teachers will fill in until teachers are found.

    Low salaries are one reason schools seem to struggle with retaining teachers.

    Christina Garry says she will not go to another county for any amount of pay -- even though she knows Wake County pays more.

    "If you say that it does not cross your mind, you check the Internet and see that raise and kind of go 'Hmm' for a moment," Garry says.

    Human Resources director Marcie Holland says plenty of teachers are doing more than thinking about it. They are resigning.

    "We're fighting in every corner," says Holland.

    But she also says that the problem is not just pay. There is also a supply-and-demand problem in North Carolina.

    North Carolina universities graduate about 3,000 teachers each year. Schools, however, have 10,000 openings.

    So, Johnston County is hiring from outside the state -- Ohio, New York, Pennsylvania, Indiana, West Virginia -- even 20 teachers from overseas.

    The trouble is, however, that many of them leave after less than two years.

    "How do you get teachers to stay?" asks Holland. "That's one I haven't figured out."

    But for those teachers, like Garry, who are getting ready for another school year, the reason to stay is simple.

    "If you've made a difference and feel like you've connected, that's the joy in it," Garry says. "That's why you stay."

    The state is doing what it can to help ease the teacher shortage. In July, Gov. Mike Easley signed a bill allowing college graduates to get a teaching certificate at community colleges instead of just universities.

    Earlier this year, the state School Board also passed a new plan to ease certification for out-of-state teachers.


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