Hoke building apartment complex to attract, retain teachers

Posted January 17, 2013 5:59 p.m. EST
Updated January 17, 2013 6:44 p.m. EST

— Many rural North Carolina school districts have trouble recruiting and keeping teachers because there's not enough affordable housing in the communities.

Hoke County Schools attacked the problem by building an apartment complex in Raeford for teachers. The $2.4 million project on Teal Drive will include 24 two-bedroom apartments – a police officer will live in one to provide security – and construction is expected to be complete in time for the summer teacher recruiting season.

"We were losing some of those qualified teachers to surrounding counties because of housing," school district spokeswoman Jodie Bryant said Thursday.

The State Employees Credit Union Foundation provided a no-interest, 15-year loan for the apartment complex. The credit union financed similar projects in Dare County, where other apartments are too expensive for teachers, and Hertford County, where rental housing is non-existent.

“They keep losing teachers to the surrounding counties,” Mark Twisdale, executive director of the SECU Foundation, said of the rural districts.

Jackie Boneshefski said she couldn't find an apartment near Raeford when she landed a job at Upchurch Elementary School five years ago.

"I ended up getting an apartment in Fayetteville, which was rather expensive," the 28-year-old fifth grade teacher said. "I would drive 45 minutes in the morning, and some afternoons it would me an hour and a half to get home."

Boneshefski said she was tempted to seek a job with Cumberland County Schools so she could work closer to home. Instead, she recently bought a house in Hoke County.

"I like the area. I like how it's quiet and just a close-knit community," she said. “I felt like I was put here for a reason, and I love my colleagues and I love my students.”

"We want all teachers to get attached to the students and their school and to have a sense of commitment," Bryant said.