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Johnston County Teacher Recruitment Pays Off

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JOHNSTON COUNTY — School systems all over the state are going to great lengths to entice new teachers into the classroom.

Durham offers new teachers no-cost mortgages; Moore County pitches a Master's degree program. Wake and Johnston County offered signing bonuses.

The schools all want the most experienced teachers they can afford, and aggressive recruiting and incentive packages are turning some heads. In North Carolina, good teachers are a hot commodity.

In Johnston County, the new hires lined up for a welcome, barbecue-style. It's part of this week's orientation designed to make the new folks feel at home.

"The welcome I've had in Johnston County has been wonderful, and I'm very grateful for that," said Kathy Allio.

Teachers each picked up a souvenir ruler, but they also weighed more significant benefits schools had to offer before choosing a Johnston County position.

"I came to Johnston County because I'm at Benson Elementary, and it's a brand new school, and they offered a lot of benefits, and a sign-on-bonus is a plus," said Elizabeth Dayton.

This year's teachers had a large menu to look over as they shopped for a job.

"I had a lot of phone calls and I had a choice of what I wanted to do. It wasn't like I had to go to a certain school," said Tammi Ray.

Karen Gaddis brought 28 years of experience from another state. Because Johnston County let her apply online, several principals started calling.

"And they said, 'can you come for an interview.' And I said, we're coming in two weeks, I'll do whatever I can, and they said, 'well, we can do phone interviews,'" said Gaddis.

Johnston County offers a small-town climate that these teachers found hard to resist.

"I just found that the atmosphere in Johnston County schools is phenomenal. It's excellent, and I decided I wanted to become involved with Johnston County then," said new teacher Cinnimon Frame.

Johnston County has only nine vacancies left to fill compared with more than 100 vacancies at this same time last year. The credit the county giving them $9 million for the incentives.

Johnston County has done well, but as is the case with most counties, the toughest jobs are the hardest to fill: special-ed teachers and secondary math and science teachers.