Martin County Schools address teacher shortage

Published: Aug. 17, 2021 at 10:33 PM EDT
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MARTIN COUNTY, N.C. (WITN) - As another pandemic school year approaches, the U.S. Dept. of Education reported a teacher shortage in every grade of math and special education in North Carolina.

Teacher Shortage Areas in North Carolina.
Teacher Shortage Areas in North Carolina.(U.S. Dept. of Education)

But for Martin County Schools in eastern North Carolina, the news isn’t surprising.

“Overall I think that we are very similar with other counties that we are experiencing the same type of teacher shortages,” superintendent David Fonseca said.

The pool of teachers had been limited even before the pandemic started, according to Fonseca.

“Now, public schools are in competition with other public schools, which we always were, but now we’re in competition with more charters, more private schools or independence schools, religious schools, and then we are also now in competition with virtual schools,” Fonseca said on hiring.

In North Carolina’s 2019-2020 State of the Teaching Profession report, Washington County Schools lost one out of every three teachers employed in the system during the measurement period.

The report was before the pandemic started but in 2021, superintendent Linda Carr said the issue is ongoing but they’re utilizing social media, local media outlets and their district website to advertise positions.

Fonseca echoed Carr in Martin County.

“We are in partnership with our community colleges and universities to create a teacher pipeline so that we grow our own, per se, but that takes time,” Fonseca said.

Time, maybe worth taking.

Julia Ward, of Williamston, graduated from Meredith College in May and three months later, she’s back in her hometown to work as a special education teacher for the first time.

”Going through this school system, I know the kind of impact it made on me, so it’s really motivated me,” Ward, 20, said. “I hope that when my students grow up, maybe they see the potential for teaching and that maybe they want to continue and do the same thing.”

Fonseca said they have enough substitute teachers to help cover each subject and they’re conducting community listening meetings where they invite the public to pitch in and suggest what more can be done to help pick and retain teachers.

“We’re fortunate that we still have a lot of young people who want to serve by leading and inspiring others,” Fonseca said. “I think that if there is anything that we can do here in North Carolina, we really need to examine how much we pay teachers. We do lose teachers and professionals to our border states, so that is a concern.”

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