Teacher Talks: Transylvania, Buncombe, Bertie

The District Visit Voices team continued their visits across the state and met with teachers and superintendents from Transylvania, Buncombe and Bertie to discuss licensure, teacher housing and investment in human capital

The District Visit Voices team continued their visits across the state and met with teachers and superintendents from Transylvania, Buncombe and Bertie to discuss licensure, teacher housing and investment in human capital.

Beginning in the west, Truitt’s team met with Transylvania county Superintendent Jeff McDaris to discuss recruitment and retention. While tourism has increased, affordable housing for teachers has posed some challenges and many are eager to find a solution. However, the tight-knit community in Transylvania is committed to providing a sound education for its students by exploring pathways to licensure, specifically surrounding residency. With weather-related closures throughout the year, Transylvania county capitalizes on its weather waiver through online enhancement days to bolster classroom content and learning days which allowed for a more seamless transition to virtual learning during the pandemic.

Continuing to Buncombe county to discuss teacher housing— and to learn more about a forward-thinking model that could be elevated statewide—the team toured the 24-unit Williams-Baldwin Teacher Campus available to full-time educators employed with Buncombe County Schools and Asheville City Schools. The two-bedroom, two-bathroom units were funded through both public/private partnership to create affordable options to the district’s educators. Additionally, throughout the summer, Buncombe county crafted its summer extension program around project-based learning. The academic and social-emotional learning allowed for over 700 credits to be applied to students in high school, allowing for 45 students to graduate when typically 15 graduate by way of “traditional” summer school.

Lastly, traveling across the state, Bertie county exemplified “grow your own” with seven principals originally from the region. Bertie continues this model through its CTE opportunities across growing industries like auto mechanics, firefighting, cosmetology and others. To provide a diverse education for its students, the district employs 25 international teachers. Like Transylvania and Buncombe counties, Bertie also faces housing difficulties for its teachers. In an effort to offset housing costs for educators, the county implemented innovative ways to supplement its educator pay through a local sales tax.

Now what? Human capital was emphasized throughout these specific district visits. Affordable teacher housing is a critical issue in the ongoing discussion to recruit and retain teachers in Transylvania to Bertie counties. The housing model in Buncombe county is a model for public/private partnership encouraging others to create opportunities for teachers that could be replicated across the state. Not only are models like this affordable for teachers, but it also gives a district an incentive when recruiting teachers from nearby areas. Additionally, local supplements maximize financial incentives for teachers and principals.

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