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Friday December 3rd

N.C. teachers are preparing to head to Raleigh for a 'Day of Action' in May

<p>Students for Education Reform gathered outside of the General Assembly Building in Raleigh in 2014, calling for a raise in wages for teachers and a new respect for the job. SFER consists of college students from all over the state, including Duke, East Carolina, UNC-CH, and Wake Forest.&nbsp;</p>
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Students for Education Reform gathered outside of the General Assembly Building in Raleigh in 2014, calling for a raise in wages for teachers and a new respect for the job. SFER consists of college students from all over the state, including Duke, East Carolina, UNC-CH, and Wake Forest. 

The North Carolina Association of Educators is organizing a “Day of Action” on May 1 in Raleigh, almost a year after thousands of teachers attended the “March for Students and Rally for Respect."

“With that march, we knew that we probably couldn’t change the policy, but we wanted to use it as a way to change the policymakers,” said Mark Jewell, president of NCAE. “And we did that by walking to the polls and Nov. 6 a historic turnout.”

Jewell also said this year's march aims to change policy.

“We’re going again in what we hoped to be even a larger rally and tell them that we’re still here and they have a job to do and they need to fund our public schools," he said.

North Carolina Superintendent Mark Johnson wrote an email to teachers, asking that the march be delayed to when schools are not in session and that educators schedule meetings with state representatives during spring break instead.

Jewell said educators have been meeting with representatives for the past eight years, and school conditions have worsened nonetheless.

“Many of our school districts already are working with the food banks, or community centers, or after-school centers,” Jewell said. 

The Orange County Schools Board of Education voted unanimously to make May 1 an optional teacher workday, as did the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education.

“It would be an optional workday, so for those that would like to work can work, and we’ve already discussed that this would be a day that teacher assistants would be able to work as well because this is not an expected workday during the year,” said Todd Wirt, superintendent of OCS.

OCS board member Hillary MacKenzie said she thinks the decision is an easy way to support teachers.

"I really believe in activism, and I believe in sending messages to the legislature,” she said.

Joal Broun, chairperson of the CHCCS Board of Education, said they were trying to comply with the requests of teachers.

“We were having a lot of teachers that were asking for the day off, and we don’t have a substantial, or sufficient, number of subs to cover the classroom,” she said. “Once you don’t have anyone in the classroom, it becomes a safety issue.”

Broun said she could not comment on Johnson's email. 

CHCCS board member Pat Heinrich said he is glad the board is bringing this issue to the table because having a lead time makes it easier for everyone, including the parents, to prepare. 

Heinrich also stressed the impact of last year’s march.

“The other thing that I just want to reflect on is how the advocacy last year really hit the press. I think it really, really showed the state the importance of teachers and the importance of students,” he said. “I really reflect on that when I think about our teachers are asking us to do, in order to enable them to do something for the state, but also this district, also our kids.”

James Barrett, another CHCCS board member, also recognized the benefits of the decision to have an option teacher workday.  

He said he thinks these things are beneficial for students and the district. 

“It helps explain to our community because they can recognize that these are important things for our family’s long term,” he said. 

Boyd Blackburn, a math teacher at Smith Middle School who will be participating in this year's march, said part of the march’s purpose is raising teachers’ pay, but increasing funding for the schools is also important.

"It's not just for teachers, but it's for public schools in North Carolina,” he said. “I think opponents of the idea try to characterize it as the teachers are just trying to do this to get a raise, but the teachers don’t really see it that way. The teachers see it as they are trying to advocate for North Carolina students getting a high quality public education.” 

David Antle, a visual arts teacher at Chapel Hill High School, said he also plans on attending this year's march.

“It lets our senators and congressmen see how many people are upset and want changes,” he said. 

@CrystalYu_

city@dailytarheel.com


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