New voices at the July State Board of Ed meeting

Mark Edwards, recently named National Superintendent of the Year and adviser to the North Carolina State Board of Education, told fellow Board members at July’s meeting that his daughter was moving from North Carolina to Nashville to begin her career as a teacher.

Edwards, who is superintendent of Mooresville County Schools, said that in Tennessee his daughter will make $10,000 more than teachers who are just beginning their careers in North Carolina. And in five years, his daughter will make $15,000 more than her North Carolinian peers.

“It’s a competitive advantage to have the best and brightest in North Carolina,” said Edwards. He said North Carolina will see a migration of those great teachers out of the state unless we find a way to pay them better.

Teacher pay was just one concern raised during the legislative update given at the State Board of Education meeting. Supplemental pay for teachers who have master’s degrees as well as core funding for instructional supplies and teacher assistants are also key items in the House and Senate budget proposals that could get slashed.

In a discussion about the importance of funding pre-K, North Carolina’s new Principal of the Year, Dale Cole, told fellow Board members that without it, students come to school way behind.

“Often we have kids coming to kindergarten who don’t know their letters and numbers,” said Cole, explaining that children in rural districts who don’t have access to pre-K are often cared for by family members and don’t always get the educational supports that are provided by pre-K programs.

When students start off already behind, Cole said that teacher assistants can help, “but we are losing those. And we are increasing class size,” he said.

“Every year, more is asked, and less is given,” Cole said about his teaching staff.

Eric Guckian, Gov. McCrory’s new education advisor, who is an alum of Teach for America, KIPP charter schools, and the Charlotte-based New Leaders program, responded to Cole by saying, “it would be great if we had unlimited resources, but we don’t.”

Guckian kicked off the July State Board meeting with a presentation of his Five Pathways for North Carolina Education. His overarching vision, “North Carolina will be the education leader not just in the Southeast or in the nation, but in the world,” is achievable by traveling all five of the following paths: creating prosperity and jobs for graduates, a rewarding career for teachers and principals, instilling a joy of reading and math for every child, excellent innovative learning options for families, and cost effectiveness for taxpayers.

Board member John Tate pressed Guckian for measures and baselines for these goals, to which Guckian said he planned to develop them between now and April.

Also on the agenda was whether or not Board members should approve a charter school’s request to increase their enrollment numbers, even though the school does not yet have an operating track record. Summerfield Charter Academy, run by one of the nation’s largest charter school management companies, is scheduled to open this fall in Guilford County.

Board members decided to put the vote off until next month.

Other topics discussed this month included Measures of Student Learning (MSL) exams, a Race to the Top update, and a review of K-3 Common Core standards.

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