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NHCo. Teachers, Lawmakers Talk Shop


Teacher compensation, higher graduation rates, and increased school technology were hot topics at a meeting of lawmakers and New Hanover County school officials Wednesday.

WHQR’s Michelle Bliss reports that teachers and administrators told legislators what they’re experiencing on the ground level as tough budget times persist.

County Teacher of the Year Rachael Moser told lawmakers about a survey she’s been conducting on how budget constraints are affecting area teachers. So far, she’s gotten 300 responses.

Moser says many teachers noted that they don’t have access to the internet in their classrooms. They don’t have Smart boards. They’re still using overhead projectors.

“Hidden in their book bags, students have cell phones; we have Smartphones. And those computers that we have in our hands are much stronger than what we’re providing for our students and their educations. Schools need to be leading the pack.”

The average district computer is seven years old and there’s only one technician for every 2,000 machines. Moser wonders how teachers can prepare 21st century students with dated technology. Another top concern is how the addition of five more school days, mandated by the state last summer, is affecting morale when teacher compensation has been frozen for three years.

“Teachers detailed in the survey that they felt that they were working for free. The phrase “slap in the face,” the phrase “backwards,” the phrase “disrespect” were prevalent throughout the survey.”

A handful of state and local lawmakers attended the event, including county Commissioner Jonathan Barfield.

He says the county allocated roughly $700,000 for school technology upgrades, but more support is needed to better the community—and save money—down the road.

“You know, our budget last year, which was over $255 million or so, a third of that budget went to the school system. And, in my opinion, we’ve got to put more money there and less money in our jail. If we can educate kids early on, we’re going to spend less money on our jails housing them.”

At the meeting, Schools Superintendent Tim Markley posed one possible solution.

“There’s not a dedicated revenue stream to help us sustain technology. And that’s something I’d like to see going forward as well, is to say, ‘If we’ve got a property tax that’s this percentage, then half a cent is dedicated straight to technology.’”

Markley says that the event was the first of its kind for the district.

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After growing up in Woodbridge, Virginia, Michelle attended Virginia Tech before moving to Wilmington to complete her Master in Fine Arts from the University of North Carolina in Wilmington. Her reporting and nonfiction writing have been featured on NPR’s All Things Considered, within the pages of Wrightsville Beach Magazine, and in literary journals like River Teeth and Ninth Letter. Before moving to Wilmington, Michelle served as the general manager for WUVT, a community radio station in Blacksburg, Virginia. She lives with her husband Scott and their pups, Katie, Cooper, and Mosey.