Rowan-Salisbury Schools dealing with teacher and bus driver shortage

$585,000 set aside for signing and retention bonuses
Published: Jul. 14, 2021 at 4:47 PM EDT
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ROWAN COUNTY, N.C. (WBTV) - Before the start of the new school year in just a few weeks, one local school system is setting aside more than half a million dollars to try and recruit new teachers and keep the ones it has. Rowan-Salisbury Schools is down by 65 teachers out of a total of approximately 1600. Dozens of bus drivers are also needed.

The money, a total of $585,000, is from a federal grant and will be used to pay signing bonuses to new teachers and retention bonuses to classroom teachers at qualifying schools.

“We’ve had a substantial increase in enrollment based on some school closures that we’ve had here locally, so we have a couple more positions than we typically would have,” said Nicole Buckner of Elizabeth Duncan Koontz Elementary School.

Buckner says they are able to offer a signing bonus for new teachers.

“That has been helpful in recruiting some new teachers for next year,” Buckner added.

The school systems is like a lot of other employers…it needs workers, whether it’s in the classroom, or behind the wheel of the school bus.

What has made it tough to stay fully staffed?

“Probably because they aren’t getting paid enough, or just all the COVID mess going on too.” one parent offered.

“My third grader teacher left in the middle of the year and we had a sub most of the year and then we had another teacher at the end, sometimes it’s just overwhelming for them,” said Sophia, a middle school student in Rowan-Salisbury. “It kind of surprises me though, as kids everybody wants to be a teacher and most pursue that because they see, they like their teacher, just their teacher setting the example for them helps a lot so I’m kind of surprised there is a teacher shortage.”

As a way to try and prevent teacher shortages for the future, Koontz Elementary is also offering the Accelerate Rowan Lab School. Principal Buckner described it as a training ground for future teachers. Undergrads from schools such as Catawba and Livingstone Colleges and UNCC come to the school, get a full year working with a master teacher in a classroom, and then can be offered contracts to become teachers the following year.

“So we’ll actually have ten classrooms in our building that will have two teachers; a master teacher and an apprentice, or an associate teacher, that is training to be a teacher in the following year,” Buckner said.

“We’re taking these students who would be student teaching anyway, we’re taking their experience and turning into a full year teaching,” said Dr. Jill Hall-Freeman, the Chief Human Resources Officer with Rowan-Salisbury Schools. “They’re compensated for that, so it is a really intensive experience, it’s a really intensive teacher preparation experience. I can’t wait to track these folks as they enter the teaching force.”

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