Last week’s press conference by Wake County Public School System (WCPSS) officials isn’t sitting well with many.
WCPSS officials called the press conference at Underwood Elementary School to highlight a 41 percent increase in teacher resignations and the need for higher salaries to attract and retain teachers.
WCPSS distributed a chart that showed 612 teachers resigned this past school year. For starters, aside from the jump in overall retirements, the figures don’t appear all that different from previous years. Twenty-three percent of those resigning are retiring with either full or reduced benefits. Of course new legislation eliminating teacher tenure and asking school districts to offer contracts to the top 25 percent of teachers would have the natural effect of encouraging some of those numbers.
Still, I can’t imagine I was the only one who thought it a little odd that WCPSS chose to have the case for higher teacher pay made by a number of well-paid administrators. Superintendent Dr. James Merrill was leading the discussion . Mr. Merrill’s annual salary from WCPSS — not including benefits and perks — $278,000.
Doug Thilman, Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources said “good teachers were having to make hard decisions to leave our classrooms for a better future somewhere else.” Thilman’s salary is $121,000 a year.
The principal of Underwood Elementary school, Jackie Jordan, wondered if Underwood is losing teachers at this rate, what is happening in other parts of the state that don’t have the same community support? Jordan — who makes an annual salary of $86,800 — said Underwood Elementary had 5 teachers resign since the beginning of last year.Of course we don’t know why? Maybe they were near retirement age. The resignation form did not contain an option “need more pay.” Speculating a uniform response when we don’t know doesn’t seem to be responsible exercise.
Are we bashing administrators? No. Anyone has the right to talk about the need to increase teacher salaries. Let’s just say if administrators are doing the talking, the message is viewed differently.
But of course several teachers did step forward at the meeting to describe their personal difficulties
Kelly Nystrum a fifth grade teacher said she’s leaving the profession because the pay isn’t enough to support her family. Nystrum said she is getting $20,000 less than she was making in California 11 years ago.
According to Wake County Public schools salary data, Kelly Nystrum is paid over $47,000 a year. Last I checked the cost of living in California was also markedly higher than North Carolina.
Two other teachers, Tracy and Britt Morgan were also in attendance. They said they couldn’t afford to stay in North Carolina. Britt said “they juggle extra jobs such as landscaping, managing a pool and selling athletic equipment. He said they “are having to leave just to make ends meet.”
Last year the Morgan’s combined salary from WCPSS was nearly $92,000.
I don’t begrudge any of these employees and the salaries they make. However when the facts are revealed the stories seem far less sympathetic. In fact, all three of the teachers mentioned had salaries higher than the WCPSS average teacher salary of $45,512. Median family income in North Carolina in 2012 is $45,150.
Think what you will, but a little perspective is always helpful.