Organizing

Morehead City Primary School kindergarten teacher assistant Evelyn Odom organizes blocks in a classroom Wednesday, which was the first day for teachers and assistants to report for the 2019-20 academic year. (Cheryl Burke photo)

MOREHEAD CITY — Although legislators and the governor are late on agreeing on a state budget, county teachers were on time Wednesday as they reported for the 2019-20 academic year.

Teachers at Morehead City Primary School seemed undaunted by the lack of a final state budget as they prepared their classrooms for the return of students, Monday, Aug. 26.

“We’ve got to have a budget in order to get the things we requested, but we’ll just see how it works out,” Morehead City Primary School second-grade teacher Stephanie Jones said. “If it doesn’t pass soon we’ll make it work like we always have.”

MPS kindergarten teacher Norma Jean Gomez, too, said she wasn’t concerned about the budget.

“I trust our legislators will work it out and make sure teachers have what they need,” Ms. Gomez said. “I’m more excited to see a new group of children. The closer it gets (the new year) the more excited I get. It’s like Christmas. I’m excited to see a new group of kids. I’m already having trouble sleeping at night because I’m so excited.”

A budget was supposed to be passed by the time the current fiscal year began July 1, but Gov. Roy Cooper vetoed the legislature’s plan, citing inadequate teacher pay raises, the absence of Medicaid expansion and presence of corporate tax cuts.

While the political standoff continues, county teachers and teacher assistants were busy Wednesday and Thursday organizing classrooms and attending workshops.

School officials said Thursday they expect to employ 603 teachers for the 2019-20 year. That count can vary depending on the number of students who report this year. Schools receive state funding for teachers based on student enrollment. The county also funds locally paid teachers.

As of Wednesday, there were five teacher vacancies remaining. Three of those were in the area of exceptional children’s programs and two were regular classroom teachers, according to Communications Director Tabbie Nance.

In addition, administrators are working to fill an assistant principal position at White Oak Elementary School.

The school system will be short seven teaching positions this year due to a drop in student enrollment last year that led to a cut in state funds, according to Superintendent Mat Bottoms.

“Those seven teachers were handled through attrition across the county and were based on reduced student enrollment,” Mr. Bottoms said in an email to the News-Times Thursday. “Class sizes were kept as small as possible by transferring a few teachers from classrooms with fewer students to classrooms with more students. This was not an easy task but it was taken very seriously and studied intently.”

Mr. Bottoms said despite budget challenges, he’s excited to see teachers and other employees back in classrooms.

“The opening of a new school year is always an exciting time, and a time filled with anticipation,” he said. “Many school system employees work year round and have spent the summer preparing for August 26. Our teachers and other employees are now in training and in schools readying classrooms and schedules as the final push takes place. We are all focused on providing an appropriate and challenging instructional year for all students.”

As has become tradition in the county, school administrators will hold a series of opening meetings at all public schools next week to get employees pumped up for a new academic year.

In conjunction with North Carolina teachers reporting back to public school classrooms, state school leaders gathered Wednesday in Raleigh to celebrate the launch of TeachNC, a teacher recruitment initiative that employs a broad media campaign and a web platform to support teacher candidates in their quest to become a teacher in North Carolina.

The initiative is a partnership between the N.C. Department of Public Instruction, BEST NC and TEACH.org.

For information about the program, visit TeachNC at TeachNC.org.

Contact Cheryl Burke at 252-726-7081, ext. 255; email Cheryl@thenewstimes.com; or follow on Twitter @cherylccnt.

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