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Johnston Putting Together a Game Plan to Get Best Teachers

Plan calls for getting the large system the best people with higher signing bonuses and retention supplements.

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SMITHFIELD, N.C. — With teachers in short supply, Johnston County—one of the state’s biggest systems—has struggled to attract and retain qualified teachers.

Now, however, school officials have a new, multimillion-dollar plan to attract more teachers into their classrooms.

At the Johnston County school administration building, a group of human resource officials meet each week to brainstorm plans for recruiting new teachers.

"We want to make sure that we are out front making sure that we get the best teacher in that classroom," says Joyce Wade, associate superintendent of human resources for Johnston County Schools.

Recruitment hasn't been easy. The teacher turnover rate is 16.6 percent in Johnston. Neighboring school systems like Wake County have lured teachers away with better pay. Officials say Wake County supplements teachers’ salaries by up to 13.5 percent, more than double what Johnston County offers over the state-funded base salary.

"It's all about providing a quality education while being competitive with other school systems," says Wade. School officials have a new plan that would allow them to offer up to a $4,000 signing bonus for new teachers. Right now, they pay between $1,000 and $2,500.

As part of the proposal, teachers who stick around would also receive up to an 11 percent supplement to their salaries compared with the 6.5 percent and 9.5 percent that Johnson adds now. School officials say the incentive plan will cost tax payers an estimated $2 million dollars.

"I think they deserve the extra incentive and the extra pay because they work hard for their money,” says Kirston Parrott, a mom whose son attends public school.

Parrott says she sees it as an investment. Scoring the best teachers means a win for her child and others.

The county commissioners must approve the incentive plan before it becomes a reality. It's scheduled for a vote May 15.

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