Opportunity Culture Schools: Showing N.C. How to Keep Teachers

by | June 23, 2014

For these CMS teachers, change doesn’t mean exodus: In Friday’s Charlotte Observer, reporter Ann Doss Helms checked back in with Charlotte-Mecklenburg (CMS) teachers who’d been in the news in the past year over their frustrations–reflected across North Carolina classrooms–with teacher pay turmoil in the state. Helms wrote:

After a year of frustration with low pay and challenging conditions, teachers Marie Calabro, Dave Hartzell and Justin Ashley have packed their boxes and left their jobs.

Despite talk of a teacher exodus from North Carolina, though, these three aren’t leaving the state–or even Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools.

Calabro, who organized sidewalk rallies for teachers, and Hartzell, featured in an Observer article on teacher pay, both switched schools to take higher-paying “opportunity culture” jobs that keep them in classrooms. The House and governor’s budget plans call for expanding that approach, which CMS is pioneering.

The article gives a glimpse of Public Impact’s long-term vision for our Opportunity Culture work–that an Opportunity Culture’s sustainably funded, higher-paid teaching and career opportunities will change who enters teaching, who stays, and how much more impact excellent teachers can have in their careers. Allowing great teachers to reach more students can kick-start the virtuous cycle of selectivity, opportunity, and higher pay.

Pilot schools already saw one effect of an Opportunity Culture on the front end of their implementation, as they were flooded with applications for the new positions; CMS now can see the beginnings of another effect, in keeping its great teachers from leaving the state for a higher-paid teaching job.

As Helms wrote about teacher Dave Hartzell:

In early May, the Observer and PNC Bank sponsored a public forum on teacher pay and working conditions. Hartzell, a standout teacher at Sterling Elementary, was featured in a front-page article and video played at the forum.

His dilemma: He loves teaching, but said North Carolina’s pay scale made it impossible to stay while trying to support his wife and a baby born in April. He talked about moving to a state that pays teachers more or switching to banking or insurance to stay in Charlotte.

“Maybe if people who are as dedicated as me leave, that’s the only way to make a difference,” he said.

The coverage brought a surge of messages urging Hartzell to stay, he said. One tip paid off when Hartzell learned this week he has been hired for an opportunity culture job at Shamrock Gardens Elementary.

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