Staff photo by Allison Potter
Dr. Janna Robertson, left, a professor in the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Watson College of Education, passes out fliers inviting people to walk in the Wilmington Holiday Parade during a Red 4 Ed rally on Tuesday, Dec. 3 before a New Hanover Board of Education meeting.
Dozens of teachers, parents and other education supporters gathered before the New Hanover County Board of Education’s Dec. 3 meeting to raise awareness about recent changes to how public educators are compensated, and to ask the school board to pass a resolution opposing the changes.
The Red 4 Ed movement has gained momentum in the past month as public school teachers across the state started wearing red T-shirts with those words to show solidarity against several new laws, including the state of North Carolina legislature’s summer 2013 passage of a law removing teacher tenure in favor of pay raises for the top 25 percent of teachers.
“We’re here because we want to make sure the school board supports their teachers,” Dr. Janna Robertson, a professor in the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s Watson College of Education said. “My teachers are more than babysitters; they are highly qualified and hold master’s degrees. And they are paid abysmally.”
The resolution before the county school board urged the North Carolina General Assembly to repeal the 25 percent contract legislation enacted earlier in 2013, and to instead develop a more effective long-term compensation plan for teachers tied to career paths with input from the education and business community.
School board chairman Don Hayes was supportive of the measure, saying he expressed concerns about the legislative changes in previous meetings and initiated the drafting of the resolution.
School district superintendent Dr. Tim Markley said the final language evolved from concerns raised both by the State Board of Education and the North Carolina Association of Educators.
“This 25 percent rule from the legislature was simply a bribe to drop tenure for teachers,” Markley said.
Before the final vote, board member Dr. Derrick Hickey proposed what he called a friendly amendment, which would strike the language in the resolution that urges the General Assembly to repeal the 25 percent raise issue.
Board members Edward Higgins and Hayes argued against the proposed change. Both said they wanted the board to be clear that they were against the 25 percent pay raise.
The board unanimously passed the resolution as it was presented, prompting applause from about two dozen red-wearing educators that remained through the three-hour meeting.
Katelyn Durkin, a teacher at Ogden Elementary School, addressed the board after the vote, urging their continued support for the county’s educators and reiterating the teachers’ desire to see many of the state legislature’s changes to public education reversed.
“Since we are not being heard, I reach out to you as our elected officials and [as] our lifeline to the State Board of Education and ask you to be our voice,” Durkin said. “I am concerned that awarding the top 25 percent of teachers a raise and taking away tenure will discourage them from collaborating and sharing ideas and successfully implementing lessons.”