What does the future look like for public education in North Carolina?
If losing a Teacher of the Year is any indication, the outlook isn't bright, some say.
Longtime Mooresville Middle School Teacher Allen Stevens, the 2015-16 Teacher of the Year in the Mooresville Graded School District, will say goodbye to an 18-year career in education on Monday.
Stevens is going into the private sector where he will work for WGB Group in Mooresville, a specialized manufacturer’s representative firm serving a variety of retail channels.
“It’s a super opportunity,” he said.
Of his decision to leave the schools, Stevens noted that the “outlook (of education) is not bright for the future.”
He added, “And it’s not just pay, though I’d be lying if I said it didn’t have something to do with that, but it’s the climate (of education) everywhere from state to local.”
Stevens noted concerns he’s had with comments made by candidates running for county commissioner in regards to public education and the lack of support for future funding through bond referendums.
He said the need for a new middle school in the MGSD is great because of current overcrowding at MMS.
“Just the climate we’re in right now is difficult to be an educator in,” he said. “And you always run the risk of the combining of the school districts. Finding out that the county commissioners have that power now, and all it takes is a three-person vote, is concerning.”
Stevens added that district officials were “very supportive of me in this decision and understood my decision.
“I love what I do, and I’ve done this for a long time. And I get enjoyment of watching kids learn and seeing the impact I’ve had on them, but that sentiment doesn’t buy groceries.”
MGSD Superintendent Mark Edwards said the continuing trend of educators leaving the state for better pay, or leaving education altogether, is “heartbreaking.”
“I have huge admiration for Allen,” he said. “He was our teacher of the year, and a great person and great teacher. It’s heartbreaking when you think: Here he is, 18 years in, but he can no longer afford to be a teacher in North Carolina.
"So it’s heartbreaking and a tragedy and I think we’re going to continue to see an exodus of others leave and say education is not the place to continue my career.”
Edwards noted that teachers in North Carolina have gone without a significant pay raise for several years, and while there was a two percent increase and many received a one-time bonus of $750, much of that was only for beginning teachers.
Edwards said he is pleased that North Carolina State Board of Education Superintendent June Atkinson has proposed a 10 percent increase so that the state can again compete with surrounding states offering more appealing salaries to teachers.
However, Edwards said he’s still hearing about other legislation that would only call for a two percent raise.
“We are very concerned and it is heartbreaking to see outstanding educators like Allen leaving the profession,” he said.